State Report: Minnesota

Two standouts, plus a bunch of Gophers




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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
As usual, the University of Minnesota will provide most of the North Star State's draft picks—though the two best prospects aren't Golden Gophers. St. Olaf righthander Ben Hughes and Centennial HS lefty Austin Malinowski stand out the most, but may have to wait until the double-digit rounds to hear their names called. Scouts had a more difficult time than usual evaluating the state after the Metrodome collapsed in December, leaving the Gophers without their usual home. Forced to play outdoors, Minnesota got in only 44 games of its 56-game schedule, and several other college and high school teams also had to scramble.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

None

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

1. Ben Hughes, rhp, St. Olaf
2. Austin Malinowski, lhp, Centennial HS, Circle Pines
3. T.J. Oakes, rhp, Minnesota
4. Austin Lubinsky, rhp, Minnesota
5. Justin Gominsky, of, Minnesota
6. Scott Matyas, rhp, Minnesota
7. Nick O'Shea, 1b, Minnesota
8. A.J. Pettersen, ss, Minnesota
9. Jordan Smith, 3b, St. Cloud State
10. Robert Youngdahl, of/lhp, Hill-Murray HS, Maplewood

SCOUTING REPORTS

St. Olaf Has State's Top Talent

Ben Hughes' combination of size, stuff and polish makes him the best prospect in the state. The 6-foot-5, 227-pound righthander has an assortment of pitches, starting with an 89-92 mph fastball that touches 94. He backs up his heater with a curveball, changeup and splitter, all of which have their moments. He uses his size to throw on a downhill plane, and his crossfire delivery to create more angle to the plate, making his pitches more difficult to hit. If he goes in the first 10 rounds, Hughes will surpass Andrew Schmiesing (Twins, 11th round, 2007) as the highest-drafted player in St. Olaf history.

One area scout compared lefthander Austin Malinowski to Brad Hand, another Minnesota prep lefty who went in the second round to the Marlins three years ago. Malinowski hasn't gotten the same hype, but he's a projectable 6-foot-4, 205-pounder who works at 87-88 mph and touches 90 with his fastball. His secondary pitches need more work, but he may be willing to forgo his Arizona commitment and turn pro.

Righthander T.J. Oakes is the Golden Gophers' top prospect, a sophomore-eligible whose father Todd is the team's pitching coach. Not surprisingly, T.J. has a clean delivery and throws strikes. He works mostly with an 88-91 mph sinker and his slider, though he also has the makings of a changeup. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, he has room to add velocity.

Fellow Minnesota righthander Austin Lubinsky's stuff is similar to that of Oakes, though he comes in a smaller package at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. Lubinsky is athletic and has solid mechanics, which allow him to fill the strike zone. He has an 88-92 mph fastball that can get straight at times, as well as a decent low-80s slider and an effective changeup.

Outfielder Justin Gominsky looked like an early-round pick for 2011 when he hit .338 with 15 extra-base hits and 11 steals as a freshman, but he missed all but six games last year when he injured his right knee. He has been slow to recover from the layoff and adjust to the new bats, and batted just .307/.367/.381 as a redshirt sophomore this spring. Despite the lack of performance, the 6-foot-4, 185-pounder has easily the best package of tools among the state's position players. He has slightly above-average speed and arm strength, and he plays a fine center field. A righthanded hitter, he'll have to refine his approach and get stronger if he's going to do damage at the plate.