Draft 2012: Prospects 26-50
Reports written by Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, Conor Glassey, John Manuel and Nathan Rode.
26. Stephen Piscotty, of/3b
For the teams that value track record, Piscotty has been a consistent performer. He's hit well all three years at Stanford, hit well in the Alaska League after his freshman year and led the Cape Cod League in batting last year. Piscotty has a strong frame at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. He has a soild, line-drive approach at the plate and projects as more of a doubles hitter than a home run threat. Piscotty's bat profiles better at third base than it does in a corner outfield spot. But if he has to move there as a pro—which is likely, since he moved to the outfield midway through the season at Stanford to make room at third for freshman Alex Blandino—then it's a tougher profile as a righthanded hitter with limited power potential. Piscotty has a strong arm and is a fringe-average runner and scouts like his makeup and work ethic.
27. Stryker Trahan, of/c
Acadiana HS, Lafayette, La.
Trahan once told Baseball America he comes "from a long line of catchers," as both his parents played the position. One scout lauded his "Cajun makeup," referencing his toughness and genial demeanor, fitting for a player named after a character in a Burt Reynolds film. He could be a first-round pick for a team that believes he can catch, but the consensus is that he'll need to shift to an outfield corner. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Trahan has an ideal build for catching and an athletic frame with strong hands and forearms that allow scouts to put good grades on his power. His swing has lacked fluidity this spring and is more strength-oriented, but he may loosen up as he puts more distance between baseball and his football career; he was Acadiana's starting quarterback last fall. Trahan has above-average arm strength, which will play behind the plate or in right field, and he's an excellent runner for his size, often turning in above-average times to first base from the left side. His obstacle at catcher is his receiving ability, which is below-average, and scouts hoped to see more progress in an inconsistent senior season. A Mississippi commitment, Trahan has too many tools to fall far.
28. Addison Russell, ss
Pace (Fla.) HS
Russell earned Juan Uribe comparisons last summer for his thick body, arm strength and power potential, as well as his profile as a player who will stick on the left side of the infield. Those comparisons no longer work physically, though, as he has lost at least 20 pounds and shaped up his physique considerably. Some scouts still think he will have to move to third, but most consider him a shortstop with soft hands, improved footwork and an above-average arm. Russell has bat speed and raw power, hindered by inconsistent swing mechanics. He's a tinkerer with his set-up and stance, and his swing can get long and loopy, leading to seven homers this spring but also a fairly modest .368 average. At other times, though, Russell will get locked in, wait on good breaking balls and make consistent, hard contact. Teams that have seen him on the right day as a shortstop with juice may buy the Boras Corp. client out of his Auburn scholarship.
29. Lucas Sims, rhp
Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga.
Sims has been a factor in this draft class since being invited to USA Baseball's 16U trials in 2010, and he pitched last summer in the Prospect Classic for the 18U team, tossing a scoreless inning against the Collegiate National Team. Sims has been the most consistent high school pitcher in Georgia this spring, pushing him up toward the back of the first round. He has a fairly clean arm action and no obvious or significant mechanical issues. Sims consistently flashed three plus pitches this spring, including a fastball that has touched 97 mph at times and generally sits in the 90-93 mph range. He struggles at times to finish his pitches out front, causing him to leave his stuff up in the zone. Sims throws his slider with power in the low 80s, and at times it has good depth as well. He has the ability to spin a breaking ball, and he's shown a solid curveball as well that's about 10 mph slower than his slider. A Clemson recruit, Sims figures to squeeze into the back of the first round thanks to his present stuff and track record.
30. Shane Watson, rhp
Lakewood (Calif.) HS
Watson's two showdowns against fellow Southern California signee Chase DeJong were among the most heavily scouted games of the spring. DeJong has better feel for pitching presently, but Watson has higher upside, and he elevated his stock into sandwich round territory during his strong first half. Watson pitches with an 89-93 mph fastball and can reach back for 94-96 even in the late innings. When he's on (as he was for most of the spring), his 77-80 mph curveball is has tight rotation and sharp bite, and most scouts project it as a second plus pitch. His stuff wasn't quite as crisp in his second matchup against DeJong, when he pitched more in the 88-90 range and bumped 92, while his curveball has less power in the 73-78 range. Still, he has shown quality stuff often enough this spring, and scouts like his prototypical 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame and his competitiveness. He has some feel for a changeup that shows decent tumble at times, though he tends to throw it too hard at 84 mph. He has tinkered with a cutter at times as well, but the curveball is his bread and butter. While he has decent control, he needs to fine-tune his command. But his delivery and arm action work, suggesting his command will improve over time.
31. Zach Eflin, rhp
Hagerty HS, Oviedo, Fla.
Eflin was shaping up as a first-round wild card. The Central Florida recruit had added velocity over the course of the 2011 showcase circuit and was maintaining that velocity this spring, sitting in the 90-94 mph range and touching 96-97 at times. Eflin complements his fastball with one of the best changeups in the prep ranks and an inconsistent, slurvy curveball that nonetheless has decent shape and flashed average. Eflin missed the month of April due to triceps tendinitis, and an MRI on his elbow came back negative. Eflin returned to pitch three innings in his team's playoff finale and touched 94 while flashing a solid breaking ball. Eflin was pitching his way into the first round until his injury; his signability and performance at the Florida prep all-star game in Sebring likely will determine how high he goes in the draft, though he still had a shot to go out in the first round.
32. Pierce Johnson, rhp
Few colleges can match Missouri State's recent track record for producing pitchers. Since 2001, the Bears have had three hurlers drafted in the first or sandwich rounds and sent a total of seven to the big leagues. The next in line is Johnson, who started to come on at the end of his sophomore season a year ago and ranked sixth in NCAA Division I in strikeouts per nine innings (11.5) in mid-May. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder misses bats with a lively 92-93 mph fastball that reaches 96 mph and a hard three-quarters breaking ball. He'll mix in an 86-87 mph cutter a few times per game and has improved his feel for his changeup. While scouts have no quibbles with Johnson's stuff, they do have some concerns, most notably his health. He missed two starts this spring with a forearm strain, an issue that also cropped up in high school and during the fall of his freshman year. He wasn't as sharp in his first three starts after his layoff, which could drop him from the first round to the supplemental first. He also dislocated a knee while warming up in the bullpen last summer in the Cape Cod League, and missed much of his high school senior season after breaking his hand on a comebacker. Johnson has just decent control and command, though he has improved in both regards this year. He also can fall in love with his breaking ball a bit too much.
33. Joey Gallo, 3b/rhp
Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas
Gallo is an enigma. There's thunder in his bat, and he can put on a show in batting practice. He became Nevada's state leader in career home runs this season after hitting his 60th, and he crushed the 10th-longest home run in Petco Park history at the Perfect Game All-America Game with wood last summer. But scouts wonder how he'll tap into that power in pro ball. He swings and misses a lot and sometimes looks overmatched against below-average stuff. Gallo has a big league body at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds. He's not mobile at third base, so while his strong arm plays, his limited range and quickness would work better at first. That would put a lot of pressure on his bat. If he signs instead of heading to Louisiana State, Gallo will likely go out as a position player, but he has a fallback option as a pitcher. He's raw on the mound and has one of the strongest arms of any position player in this year's draft and has been clocked at 98 mph off the mound in short outings. He sits in the 93-95 mph range and mixes in an intriguing slider.
34. Tanner Rahier, ss
Palm Desert (Calif.) HS
Rahier is the most prominent Southern California prospect who elected to play in a wood-bat club league this spring rather than play for his high school—a move that some scouts admit rubbed them the wrong way. But no one questions Rahier's passion for the game or his work ethic; as one scout put it, "He plays like a bat out of hell—he's like Pete Rose." Rahier is aggressive in every phase of his game—he runs hard, swings hard and is constantly in attack mode in the batter's box. That makes him prone to chasing pitches out of the zone at times, but he shows pitch recognition and excellent hand-eye coordination, helping the righthanded hitter barrel up hard line drives to left and center field. He is savvy enough to go the other way when the situation calls for it, but it isn't his forte. Rahier projects as an average to plus hitter with a chance for solid-average power as he matures. He'll need to grow into some pop, because few scouts give him a chance to stick at shortstop in the long term. Though his actions are unorthodox and "high-effort," as one scout put it, Rahier has sure hands and good instincts to go along with a plus arm. No better than a fringy runner, Raher's range is lacking for short. Some scouts think he could be a plus defender at third base, while others think he could be an above-average second baseman. Rahier is polarizing; some scouts like him as a sandwich pick, while others see him as a fourth- or fifth-round talent. The San Diego commit is considered signable.
35. Daniel Robertson, 3b
Upland (Calif.) HS
Scouts have a variance of opinion on Robertson, but the strong consensus is that someone will probably like him enough to take him in the supplemental first round, and no later than the second. His best tool is his quick righthanded bat, which produces loads of hard doubles and has a chance to be a plus tool. Even his detractors project it to be average. He flashes pop to the pull side, and assessments of his power potential range from 45 to 60 on the 20-80 scale, depending on which scout you ask. Robertson plays shortstop in high school but projects as a third baseman in pro ball. Some scouts think his hands, instincts and arm all project as above-average and believe he can be a standout defender at the hot corner. His weakest tool is his speed, which is below-average at best. A UCLA commit, Robertson is a gamer with plenty of baseball savvy and more polish than most high school prospects.
36. Anthony Alford, of
Petal (Miss.) HS
Alford, a two-sport athlete, has committed to Southern Mississippi for both baseball and football. He's teammates in baseball with Garren Berry, son of USM baseball coach Scott Berry. And the Golden Eagles have a new football coach, Ellis Johnson, who has hired Alford's prep football coach onto his staff. In April Alford indicated he plans to go to college and play both sports. That's too bad, because many scouts considered Alford one of the class' elite athletes. Big and fast at 6 feet, 200 pounds, he was the Magnolia State's football player of the year as a quarterback and chose Southern Miss over such football powers as Louisiana State and Nebraska. He threw for more than 2,000 yards and ran for more than 1,700 as a senior, accounting for 44 touchdowns, but he's at least as intriguing on the diamond, where he's a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale with power potential, too. He helped Patal High win back-to-back state 6-A championships before the team lost in the third round this spring, as Alford batted .483 with four homers.
37. Walker Weickel, rhp
Olympia HS, Orlando
Weickel answered USA Baseball's call several times in his high school
career and stuck with the 18U national team last November after many
other pitchers bailed on the program. Weickel was the best pitcher on
the 18U team that won the Pan American championships gold medal. Tall
and lanky at 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, Weickel grew almost two inches in the
last year and uses his frame to pitch downhill with a heavy fastball.
He also has feel for a curveball and changeup and uses pitch stuff in a
mature manner. His stuff was down this spring, as he often pitched with a
fastball in the upper 80s rather than the low 90s heat he showed in the
past. Scouts said the ball wasn't coming out of his hands the way it
had in the past, even though Weickel never lost for his undefeated
Olympia High club. His curveball also needs more power, as he often
threw it in the 68-72 mph range. Weickel's advocates point to his angle,
track record and his late growth spurt as reasons for optimism. If he
can regain some body control and if his strength can catch up to his
frame, Weickel could still develop into a mid-rotation starter with
three average-to-plus offerings. But that involves a lot of projection
right now, perhaps dropping Weickel into the supplemental or second
38. Ty Buttrey, rhp
Providence HS, Charlotte
Providence High has churned out several prospects in recent years, including Clemson's Richie Shaffer and North Carolina State catcher Brett Austin, and scouts were back this spring to see a tall, projectable righty in Buttrey. An Arkansas signee, Buttrey is 6-foot-5, 205 pounds and had early buzz this spring after touching 96 mph with his fastball. His velocity dropped off a bit later in the spring, attributable to him being used as a reliever between starts, and had been sitting 90-93 mph. Buttrey works quickly, throwing 6 1/3 innings in a start in April that lasted less than 90 minutes. His second pitch is a hard knuckle-curve that has downer action and sits 77-79 mph. He also mixes in a changeup that shows good fade at times. Already 19 years old, Buttrey is one of the older players in the high school class.
39. Brian Johnson, lhp/1b
Johnson was a latecoming member of the 2009 draft's Top 200 Prospects list, emerging with a strong showing in Sebring, Fla., at the state's high school all-star game. He went to Florida instead of signing and quickly emerged as one of the nation's top two-way players. He led USA Baseball's College National Team with three home runs last summer and draws some interest as a power-hitting first baseman. He's a fairly slow-twitch athlete, though, and profiles better as a durable, big bodied fourth starter. Johnson pitches off an average fastball in the 88-91 mph range, complemented by a slider, curveball and changeup. He throws all four pitches for strikes, with just 42 career walks in his first 219 college innings, and he hides the ball well in his delivery. He gets more swings and misses with his fastball than his velocity and fastball life would seem to merit. Johnson's curveball has its moments as his best secondary pitch, though he doesn't throw it with consistent power. Johnson has good body control despite his modest athleticism and soft body. He's considered a safe, low-upside pick, with some hope that his stuff will become firmer as he focuses 100 percent on pitching.
40. Nick Travieso, rhp
Archbishop McCarthy HS, Southwest Ranches, Fla.
Travieso rivaled Zach Eflin for the most helium of any pitcher in the
Southeast. Earlier in his prep career Travieso was a hitter and relief
pitcher who showed velocity off the mound but little touch and feel, or
secondary pitches for that matter. This spring, Travieso took off the
training wheels, starting for Archbishop McCarthy and taking a big step
forward in April after getting some innings under him. Travieso's
fastball sits in the 91-95 mph range, and at times it's better than
that, reaching 98. In his first year throwing a breaking ball, Travieso
has developed a hard slider with power that scrapes 86 and sits in the
low-to-mid-80s. He's still learning a changeup but already has shown the
ability to manipulate the baseball, developing a fastball with two-seam
action to help him get to his glove side. Previously considered more of
a reliever, Travieso had late helium as his stuff jumped a grade. He
could push his way into the first round. He's committed to Miami if
teams still believe he's more of a reliever than a starter.
41. Barrett Barnes, of
Barnes has a chance to go in the first round and probably won't last past the sandwich round, which would make him the second-highest draft pick in Texas Tech history behind Doug Harris (fifth overall, 1989). Barnes' plus righthanded power and the possibility that he could stick in center field make him attractive. He packs a lot of strength into his 6-foot-1, 219-pound frame and offers a lot of bat speed. He's willing to take walks when pitchers don't challenge him, though he may not hit for a high average because his swing can get rotational and he's a dead-pull hitter. Barnes has plus straight-line speed (6.6-6.7 seconds in the 60-yard dash) but it doesn't always play that way. He does have 50 steals in 56 career attempts. If Barnes has to move to corner—likely left field because he has a below-average arm—he has enough power to profile there.
42. Mitch Haniger, of
The brother of former Georgia Tech slugger Jason Haniger, Mitch is a physical specimen who was a standout wide receiver in high school. He has has generated top-50-pick buzz this spring by showing two legitimate plus tools in his power and arm strength. His throws are low and accurate with good carry, leading scouts to believe Haniger can play right field in the big leagues, though he plays a decent center field for the Mustangs. Haniger racked up nine outfield assists through just 39 games this spring. He's a fringe-average runner and an average defender with a chance to be a fringe-average hitter. He has refined his setup this spring, getting his hands in better hitting position and staying in sync more consistently. He also has become more selective, walking as much as he strikes out and handling offspeed stuff much better than he did earlier in his career, especially with two strikes. His improved approach and pitch recognition has allowed him to make good use of his power—he had more home runs (11) through 12 weeks than the top two teams in the Big West combined.
43. Carson Kelly, 3b/rhp
Westview HS, Portland, Ore.
Oregon hasn't produced a high school player in the first three rounds since 1998 when righthander Steve Bechler went to the Orioles, but Kelly has the talent to end that streak. He is a two-way player, but more scouts prefer him as a position player. He's a below-average runner, but his other tools are solid. Kelly has a strong build and is already pretty well filled out. He has a nice line-drive stroke with good loft and power potential. He's not flashy, but he's a steady defender at third base and has a strong arm. Some teams would like to try Kelly behind the plate. On the mound, he sits in the 90-92 mph range and throws a curveball and changeup. The Oregon recruit is young for the class and won't turn 18 until mid-July but shows excellent maturity and leadership.
44. Mitch Brown, rhp
Century HS, Rochester, Minn.
Brown could make history as the first Minnesota prep pitcher ever drafted before the second round. He looked like a first-rounder in his opening start of 2012, when he didn't throw a fastball under 90 mph and threw several at 94. He backed it up with an 87-88 mph cutter/slider and a curveball that both projected as plus pitches, and showed aptitude for a changeup that could become an average offering. Brown hasn't quite lived up to that standard in his subsequent outings, but he continues to display advanced feel for his four-pitch repertoire. Scouts gush about his focus and discipline as well. The son of a Korean powerlifter, he has a strong 6-foot-2, 210-pound build. There's some crossfire to his delivery, but it adds deception rather than detracts from his command. Brown has a scholarship from the University of San Diego that likely will become moot if he's selected in the first two rounds.
45. Tyler Gonzales, rhp
Madison HS, San Antonio
Gonzales has one of the best two-pitch mixes in the entire draft. After operating at 88-92 mph with his fastball in his first scrimmage of the year, he has worked at 93-95 mph and touched 97 consistently in games. He maintains velocity deep into games, pitching at 91-93 mph in the latter stages. He also has a big league slider that sits at 84-88 mph and has reached as high as 90. The nephew of Nationals crosschecker Jimmy Gonzales, Tyler is more wiry than physical at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds. He generates his electric stuff with a considerable amount of effort in his delivery, which includes a head whack and detracts from his command. He locates his slider better than his fastball, and there's debate as to whether he'll wind up as a starter or a reliever. Gonzales has closer upside and might be at his best if a big league team just let him try to overpower opponents for one or two innings at a time. He does show a changeup while warming up in the bullpen but doesn't use it in games. He's another member of a banner University of Texas recruiting class who doesn't figure to make it to Austin.
46. Nolan Fontana, ss
Fontana came to Gainesville in the summer of 2009 as part of a top-ranked recruiting class that included Mike Zunino, Brian Johnson and Hudson Randall, among others. Fontana became the everyday shortstop as a freshman and has helped take the Gators to back-to-back College World Series trips. Scouts see him as one of the draft's safest bets for his defensive and hitting skills, despite his lack of impact tools. One opposing coach likened Fontana to Novocain: "Give it time, it works." Fontana grinds through at-bats, seeing plenty of pitches and drawing walks. He has learned to punish mistakes and had nine home runs through April, after hitting eight in his first two seasons combined. Some scouts say Fontana has above-average speed, and all note his heady, smart baserunning. He's an efficient, surehanded defender at short who has made just three errors this season. He should play there as a professional, at least as a utility player, but profiles better as a second baseman due to his range and average arm. Fontana has no impact tool but should be a big leaguer for a long time, and should be the second college middle infielder drafted after Arizona State's Deven Marrero.
47. Wyatt Mathisen, c
Calallen HS, Corpus Christi, Texas
Mathisen is the best high school catching prospect in the draft, though he hasn't seen much time behind the plate for Calallen High, which has deemed him more valuable as a shortstop and pitcher. There's no question his pro future is as a backstop, and he has the tools and desire to make it there. He has plus arm strength and the athleticism to become a good receiver, though his inexperience shows as he flinches at times when catching the ball. His makeup is off the charts, as he has the leadership ability to run a pitching staff and the work ethic to succeed. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Mathisen has the swing and strength to hit for average and power from the right side of the plate. He's a good runner for a catcher, grading as close to average, though he'll probably lose a step once he starts catching every day. Like crosstown Corpus Christi rival Courtney Hawkins, he's a Texas recruit.
48. Clint Coulter, c
Union HS, Camas, Wash.
To put it simply, Coulter is a beast. Runners will not want to encounter him at the plate, as the former state wrestling champion has a chiseled 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. The size helps him in the batter's box. He's strong with leverage in his swing, above-average power and good pitch recognition. Like most catchers, Coulter has below-average speed, but he runs the bases well and shows good aggression and instincts. His size also limits him some defensively and he'll have to work hard to remain at the position as a pro. Coulter shows good athleticism for his size and has above-average arm strength and the intangibles teams look for in a catcher. He's a vocal leader on the field, takes instruction well and plays the game hard all the time. Coulter has learned from a good teacher, as Union's head coach is former big leaguer Tom Lampkin, but the Arizona State recruit needs to work on improving his agility, footwork and blocking.
49. J.O. Berrios, rhp
Papa Juan XXIII HS, Bayamon, P.R.
In the history of the draft, only two pitchers from Puerto Rico have been drafted in the top two rounds—Jorge Lopez, who went in the second round to the Brewers last year and Luis Atilano, a Braves supplemental first-round pick from 2003. This year, there may be two more on that list and Berrios will likely be the first off the board. Berrios worked with a conditioning coach this fall and spring and added 20-25 pounds to his frame since the summer and now has a muscular, athletic 6-foot-1, 180-pound physique. The added muscle has allowed him to smooth things out and has boosted his fastball velocity. His fastball now sits in the 93-95 mph range and some scouts have seen him touch 98. He throws his fastball down in the zone, mixes in a sharp, 80-81 mph slider and shows the makings of a solid changeup with fading action. Berrios is getting buzz as high as the back of the first round, and it's unlikely he'll wind up honoring his commitment to Miami Dade JC.
50. Walker Buehler, rhp
Clay HS, Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky had its best-ever high school class in 2008, with four players who ranked among Baseball America's top 75 prospects and were led by Robbie Ross, now in the big leagues with the Rangers. After lacking any comparable prep talents in the next three drafts, the Bluegrass State is fruitful once again. Buehler belongs in the first two rounds this year and Woodford County High (Versailles) righthander Colton Hollon could be the first high school player drafted in 2013. The pair matched up in a May 1 game shortened by rain, with Buehler touching 94 mph with his fastball and Hollon topping him at 96. Buehler shows the potential for three plus pitches. At his best, he deals at 90-94 mph with his fastball, devastates hitters with an 80-81 mph curveball and confounds them with a sinking changeup. He's still skinny at 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds, so there are days when his fastball sits at 86-91 mph and his secondary pitches aren't as crisp. That leads some scouts to wonder how well he'll be able to maintain his stuff with an increased workload in pro ball, though they love his smooth arm action and polish. Though Buehler is a good student who has committed to Vanderbilt, teams believe he may be signable if drafted in the first couple of rounds.