Draft 2012: Prospects 51-75
Reports written by Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, Conor Glassey, John Manuel and Nathan Rode.
51. James Ramsey, of
Scouts have called Ramsey the Tim Tebow of Florida State baseball, referring to his leadership, strong Christian faith and big-play ability, and Seminoles coaches don't shrink from the comparison. The first player under 33-year head coach Mike Martin to wear a "C" on his uniform as team captain, Ramsey spurned the Twins as a 22nd-round pick last summer, turning down more than $500,000 from a club that wanted to shift him to second base. He has moved from right to center field as a senior and got off to a blistering start, and he was batting .401/.536/.731 to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in all three categories. Scouts see Ramsey as much the same player he was last year, with average to above-average tools but no true plus tool. He's an above-average runner who might be able to stick in center field, though some scouts question his instincts and doubt he could stick there in a larger home park. He has an average, accurate arm sufficient for right field. Ramsey has average power but may not have corner power. He's a safe bet to be a big leaguer, with scouts split on just how much impact he'll have. He has yet to play the infield, but another club might want to follow the Twins' lead and try him at second in a Jason Kipnis redux.
52. Lewis Brinson, of
Coral Springs (Fla.) HS
Brinson is an intelligent, hard-working player whose father died when he was just 11 years old. Scouts like his tools and his makeup, but his performance has driven his stock down a bit this spring. He looks the part in a uniform, with a long, lean, athletic body and 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame that evokes Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin. Brinson has fairly long arms and is a long-levered athlete, with advantages and disadvantages associated with that. He's a fluid runner with plus speed and range to spare in center field. He should become a premium defender, with a plus arm as well. Brinson showed strong offensive potential last summer, beating Byron Buxton in the home run derby at Wrigley Field in the Under Armour All-America Game. He also showed the ability to hit velocity in the Perfect Game showcase in Jupiter, Fla., last October. However, Brinson has disappointed scouts this spring with his lack of consistent hard contact. His long levers lead to a long swing with too many holes, and his bat speed has regressed as he has lost his way mechanically. Teams that like Brinson in the first 60 selections will have to be confident in their projections on his bat.
53. Hunter Virant, lhp
Camarillo (Calif.) HS
Virant is still fairly new to pitching, and his fresh arm, lean 6-foot-3 frame, smooth delivery and athleticism suggest he has plenty of projection remaining. He worked mostly at 87-89 mph early in the year and has shown more velocity as the season has progressed, running his fastball up to 93 at times. He could add velocity as he matures, but even if he pitches with average velocity his fastball will play up because of his downward angle and ability to locate it to both sides. His delivery helps him hide his changeup, which projects as a plus pitch with fade and sink and he learns to throw it more consistently. He flashes a decent slider, and it has shown more power at times. In the offseason and early in the year, his curveball was slow and loopy, but some scouts said it looked better later in the spring. Still, he needs to improve his feel for his breaking stuff. Some scouts suggest he could benefit from three years at UCLA, and he is considered an expensive sign.
54. Alex Wood, lhp
Scouts can't recall a delivery quite like Wood's. When he lands on his right (lead) leg, he hops backward. It's odd to watch and will be difficult for pro pitching coaches to avoid changing. Still, he does a lot of good things, starting with his fastball. He has excellent velocity for a lefthander, touching 95-96 mph regularly and sitting in the 89-94 range. He throws a lot of strikes with his heater, showing the ability to locate it to both sides of the plate. When he's filling up the zone with his fastball, he's able to set up his changeup, his favorite pitch and a solid-average offering. His slider is a below-average pitch, and he has never shown much of a feel for spinning a breaking ball. A redshirt sophomore, Wood has had Tommy John surgery already, and between that and his delivery, he creates a wide diversity of opinion. But power lefthanders who throw strikes and perform in the Southeastern Conference (6-1, 2.64, 82 IP, 81-19 SO-BB) usually don't last long on draft day.
55. Nolan Sanburn, rhp
Arkansas had one of the nation's deepest pitching staffs this spring, allowing the Razorbacks to use a premium arm like Sanburn in a relief role. He was just seventh on the team in innings pitched in May, but scouts had seen enough of him to put him toward the top of a large group of college relief pitchers. He cemented his place with a dominant outing against Missouri, striking out seven in four shutout innings and sitting in the 94-99 mph range. Sanburn hits 97 consistently with his fastball and has a power curveball in the low 80s, though he doesn't locate it well. He has dabbled with a slider and cutter to give him a breaking ball he can control better. He needs innings, having thrown just 62 in college so far after pitching and hitting in high school, where he was primarily an outfielder.
56. Freddy Avis, rhp
Menlo School, Atherton, Calif.
Avis attends the same high school that produced Stanford infielder Kenny Diekroeger and is set to also attend Stanford, which is just 10 minutes away from his high school campus. Avis has a well-proportioned build and an athletic, balanced delivery. He was rusty early in the season, having jumped straight from basketball to baseball, but at his best he shows good arm speed and throws a fastball in the low to mid-90s from a three-quarters arm slot. Avis mixes in a mid-70s curveball that shows potential but needs more consistency, and an occasional changeup. When he's not pitching, Avis plays shortstop, and some scouts like his swing from the left side of the plate, but he'd likely give that up if he heads to college—which most scouts regard as likely. He is considered a very difficult sign. Avis is also a talented musician.
57. Paul Blackburn, rhp
Heritage HS, Brentwood, Calif.
Blackburn stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 180 pounds. He is a good athlete and shows a clean delivery that he repeats well. His fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range and tops out at 94. Scouts can still project on Blackburn. His curveball and changeup show promise and he could eventually have three plus pitches. Because of his athleticism and smooth mechanics, scouts believe he will also eventually pitch with above-average control and command. He shows good feel and poise on the mound, too. Blackburn has consistently pitched well throughout the spring and is interested in professional baseball, so scouts don't believe he'll wind up at Arizona State, where he has committed.
58. Adam Brett Walker, 1b/of
A Wisconsin native, Walker comes from an athletic family, as his father (also Adam Brett) was an NFL replacement player in 1987 and a longtime football and track coach, while his mother was a college high jumper and volleyball player. Walker chose baseball and went South to play in college, helping lead Jacksonville to regionals in 2011 as the Atlantic Sun Conference player of the year. He hit .409/.486/.682 with 13 home runs and ranked in the top 10 in the nation in hits, RBIs and total bases. He also struck out 63 times, and then hit .216/.269/.336 with 56 strikeouts in 134 Cape Cod League at-bats last summer. Jacksonville has had a dreadful season with injuries but Walker has produced, though not quite as well as last season when the whole team was going well. Walker is an above-average runner who could move to the outfield if necessary, despite fringe-average arm strength. His value is in his bat, though, and he struggles to lay off breaking pitches or fastballs up and out of the zone. While he has cut his strikeout rate from 26 to 22.5 percent, his propensity to swing and miss may have cost him a shot at the first round.
59. Jameis Winston, of
Hueytown (Ala.) HS
Winston is part of a long line of Florida State quarterback signees who also have baseball as a possibility. The group incudes the likes of Chris Weinke, Danny Kannell, Joe Mauer and more recently D'Vontrey Richardson. Winston may be the most anticipated football prospect of them all, and his football prowess has clouded his baseball potential. He is one of the better athletes in the draft class, and at times it appears there's nothing beyond his reach. He's a 6.6-second runner in the 60 who switch-hits and has excellent arm strength, having touched 92 mph on the mound. Winston has shown premium bat speed in showcases as well, and at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, it's easy to project him to hit for plus power down the line. He has not had a great spring, turning off scouts with his on-field demeanor and looking less polished than hoped. Winston has handled all the attention he has received -— much of it negative —- for being an Alabama football stud who spurned the Crimson Tide for Florida State. It's difficult for many scouts to imagine him turning down big-time college football, and many hope to check in again in three seasons to see how he has handled playing both sports for the Seminoles.
60. Dan Langfield, rhp
Langfield impresses scouts for his story and his stuff. A 6-foot righthander, he was one of New England's top arms three seasons ago out of high school. He also was thick-bodied and still had some baby fat. He headed to Memphis, trimmed up his body and improved the quality of his stuff while maintaining the toughness of a cold-weather Northeast pitcher. He has three strikeout pitches, though he delivers them with some effort. Langfield's fastball tends to be true but has plenty of power, touching as high as 97 mph and sitting in the 92-94 range. Some scouts prefer his hard slider, which has depth and cutter velocity at 85-87 mph. Most prefer his downer curveball, also thrown with power. He was leading Conference USA and ranked fifth in Division I in strikeouts with 99 in 79 innings. His control can be spotty, but he lowered his walk rate from 5.2 per nine innings last season to 3.9 so far in 2012. Langfield has a high slot that tends to cause his fastball to straighten out, and most scouts believe he'll wind up in the bullpen down the line. But his three-pitch repertoire will at least give him a chance to start.
61. Matt Koch, rhp
A swingman in his first two seasons at Louisville, Koch may have found his true calling in the Cape Cod League last summer. Used solely in relief by Chatham, he finished the summer with 15 1/3 straight scoreless innings, including an appearance in the Cape all-star game. The Cardinals have kept him in that role this season, which he opened by showing at 96-97 mph for one inning at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge in Florida. He has pitched at 92-96 mph this spring, though scouts have had a difficult time seeing him because he shares closing duties with Derek Self. Koch has been inconsistent with his secondary pitches, the main reason that opponents have hit a surprising .319 against him this year. He'll flash a plus changeup and a low-80s slider with depth, and some scouts think it's still worth trying to develop him as a starter. Koch is built for durability at 6-foot-3 and 204 pounds, leading to more credence for that belief. There's mixed opinion as to whether he's better than former Louisville closer Tony Zych, who signed for $400,000 as a Cubs fourth-round pick last year. Zych throws harder but Koch has a better body, a superior pitch and less effort in his delivery.
62. Kyle Twomey, lhp
El Dorado HS, Placentia, Calif.
Twomey has boosted his stock with a dominant spring, highlighted by a 14-strikeout no-hitter in the National Classic in April—his third straight shutout. Skinny and loose with a smooth, high three-quarters arm action, Twomey projects to add velocity to his 87-91 mph fastball as he fills out. The pitch already plays up because of its deception and life, prompting comparisons to Cliff Lee's or C.J. Wilson's fastballs. His secondary stuff is below-average at this stage, however. His best offspeed pitch is a changeup that he turns over to create fading action, and he is learning to throw it with better arm speed. He needs to throw his big, sweeping curveball with more conviction. He also started tinkering with a cutter/slider for the first time during his no-hitter, keeping hitters off balance by running his two-seamer away from rigthies and running his cutter in on their hands. Scouts rave about Twomey's makeup and aptitude, making it easy to dream on him. The Southern California commit could be drafted as high as the sandwich round, though the second round is more likely.
63. Stephen Johnson, rhp
St. Edward's (Texas)
The draft's best college prospect outside of NCAA Division I, Johnson had middling success in two years as a starter at Division II St. Edward's. He rocketed up draft boards when he worked as a reliever last summer for the California Collegiate League's Santa Barbara Foresters and helped them win the National Baseball Congress World Series. Johnson's fastball sat at 94-96 mph last summer and has been even better this spring, hitting 98 mph and topping out at 101 mph. He has been much more dominant coming out of the bullpen, leading D-II with 16 regular-season saves while striking out 63 in 36 innings and limiting opponents to a .131 average and two extra-base hits. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder pitches mostly off his fastball, which features some run and sink, and his hard slurve parks at 81-85 mph when it's on. Johnson has a funky arm action with a stab in the back, resulting in just decent command and perhaps limiting his realistic ceiling to set-up man rather than closer. Diagnosed with a partial elbow tear as a Colorado high school senior three years ago, Johnson eschewed surgery and hasn't had any health problems in college.
64. Jake Barrett, rhp
On talent alone, Barrett has first-round stuff. Pitchers in the Pacific-12 conference with fastballs that sit in the mid-90s and touch 98 to go along with above-average secondary stuff (a hard breaking ball and a splitter) don't typically last too long in the draft. Barrett also has prototypical physicality at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. But scouts have questions about his durability. At least two scouts have said Barrett didn't sign with the Blue Jays as a third-round pick out of high school because the team had questions about his physical, though he has never missed any time at Arizona State. A starter in high school and last year for the Sun Devils, Barrett moved to the bullpen this year, and that's where scouts believe he'll stay as a pro. He has the pure stuff to help a big league bullpen in a hurry.
65. Tom Murphy, c
Murphy was playing against USA Baseball's college team for the New England Collegiate League when he caught scouts' eyes, turning on a fastball from Louisiana State righthander Kevin Gausman that went about 400 feet foul. Gausman came back with a slider that Murhpy waited on and launched over Fenway Park's Green Monster for a home run. Team USA then picked him up for five games against Japan, before he returned to Holyoke to finish with a .291/.364/.575 line. Murphy is a good athlete with a strong frame at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. He runs well for a catcher, turning in a 6.75-second 60-yard dash last summer. He got off to a good start for Buffalo, though he tailed off at the plate and hasn't put up the numbers scouts hoped for and was hitting .250 in 116 at-bats against righthanders. He has good raw power and doesn't project to hit for much average, but will be an asset thanks to his solid defense. He has a plus arm and made strides behind the plate this season.
66. Steve Bean, c
Rockwall (Texas) HS
The University of Texas landed two of the top three high school catching prospects in its recruiting class, though neither Bean nor Wyatt Mathisen figures to arrive on campus. Bean has raised his profile as much as any prospect in Texas this spring, giving himself a chance to go in the top two rounds of the draft. His standout tool is an arm that grades as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He's improving as a receiver and projects to develop solid skills in that regard. A 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, Bean offers offensive potential from the left side of the plate as well. He makes consistent contact and has the wiry strength to grow into decent power. While he's a below-average runner, he's athletic for a catcher and plays with a lot of energy.
67. Kevin Plawecki, c
Purdue is steaming toward its first Big Ten Conference regular-season championship in 103 years, thanks in large part to Plawecki, an offensive-minded catcher with enough defensive savvy to make it to the majors as a regular behind the plate. Plawecki has a mature approach, focusing on staying inside the ball and driving it back up the middle. Scouts marvel at his ability to make contact, as he has struck out just 28 times in 154 games over three seasons with the Boilermakers. A 6-foot-1, 215-pound righthanded hitter, he could develop average power once learns to backspin balls and turn on pitches. Defensively, Plawecki has fringe arm strength that plays up thanks to a quick release, and he has thrown out 40 percent of basestealers while making just one error this spring. He throws from a low three-quarters slot that costs him velocity and accuracy, and he developed a tired arm when he used a more traditional release point. He's an efficient receiver who calls his own pitches and takes charge of his pitching staff. Add it all up, and Plawecki draws comparisons to a righthanded-hitting version of A.J. Pierzynski.
68. Travis Jankowski, of
One of the best athletes in this draft class, Jankowski stands out for his speed, bat and defense. He has a live body and stands at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, and he's a plus runner who plays above-average defense in center field with an average arm. A lefthanded hitter, Jankowski has an unorthodox swing, but it works for him. It's a handsy swing similar to Dustin Ackley's, but Jankowski doesn't have the same power or strength. His five career home runs provide evidence of his well below-average power, but that won't be his game anyway. He has a knack for putting the ball in play and has the speed to beat out infield hits. He had 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts through 47 games and doesn't strike out much (15 in 177 at-bats).
69. Peter O'Brien, c
O'Brien was little known at Miami's Braddock High, emerging as a sophomore at Bethune-Cookman when he hit 20 home runs, then four more to lead USA Baseball's college national team in the summer of 2010. He slumped a bit in 2011, dropping 80 points in batting average but was still a third-round pick of the Rockies. He didn't sign and transferred to Miami as a senior. O'Brien's spring got off to a tremendous start, first when the NCAA cleared him to play without having to sit out a year, then by hitting .354/.465/.677 with 10 home runs in his first 127 at-bats. He has plenty of strength in his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame and doesn't have to pull the ball to hit it over the fence. He has good balance and the requisite arm strength to catch. At his size, though, O'Brien lacks agility and struggles to block balls in the dirt. Some scouts think he can hit enough to survive as a below-average receiver with inconstant throwing accuracy. A hairline fracture of his left wrist, sustained when he was hit by a pitch April 15, further complicated his draft status. Three weeks later, he had yet to swing a bat, though he hoped to return before the end of the regular season.
70. C.J. Hinojosa, ss
Klein Collins HS, Spring, Texas
Hinojosa planned to graduate early from high school last winter so he could enroll at Texas and become the Longhorns' starting shortstop this spring. But his academic load became overwhelming, so he opted to graduate with his class in June. Hinojosa has one plus tool: his righthanded bat. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder has a quick bat and sees pitches well, allowing him to drive the ball to all fields with good pop for a middle infielder. His average speed and solid arm play up because of his instincts, which give him a chance to stick at shortstop in pro ball. He makes all the plays and would have pushed projected first-rounder Gavin Cecchini to second base on the U.S. 18-and-under team last summer had Hinojosa not injured his non-throwing shoulder. Scouts still don't think any team will be able to sign him away from Texas. They also were disappointed that he let his 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame get a little soft this year, though that didn't stop him from playing well before he had surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder in April.
71. Jesmuel Valentin, 2b
Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R.
The son of Jose Valentin, who spent 16 years in the big leagues, Jesmuel has grown up around the game and spent plenty of time around major league clubhouses. Jesmuel has a similar build to his father at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. He's primarily a shortstop, but plays a lot of second base in deference to his high school teammate at Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Carlos Correa. He'll likely get a shot to play shortstop in pro ball and has the defensive versatility to play all over the diamond, but many scouts believe he's best suited for the keystone. Valentin is a steady defender with a strong arm and is a solid-average runner with good instincts on the bases. His tools play up because of his hard-nosed approach and instincts for the game. At the plate, he has a line-drive approach, and his strong forearms allow him to spray the ball from gap to gap with authority. Valentin projects more as a doubles hitter than a slugger, but he does have the strength and bat speed to hit the ball out of the park. A natural righthanded hitter, he has been switch-hitting for about a year and half and is still working to feel comfortable as a lefty.
72. Alec Rash, rhp
Adel DeSoto Minburn HS, Adel, Iowa
An Iowa native who moved to Alabama with his mother as a high school junior, Rash returned to Iowa for his senior season and is the state's best prospect since Jeremy Hellickson pitched at Des Moines' Hoover High in 2005. He go higher than Hellickson (fourth round) if a team believes it can sign him away from college and get him to control his electric stuff. Long and lean at 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, Rash throws a 91-93 mph fastball that hits 95 and features heavy life, and he'll push his hard slider up to 83 mph. He is a quality athlete who also starred in football and basketball, but he is still learning to repeat his delivery. His arm is so fast that it gets ahead of the rest of his body, resulting in scattershot control. Scouts grade his present command as a 30 or 40 on the 20-80 scale, and his development will require patience. Rash's upside could drive him up to the second round, but his rawness and his signability mean he might fall significantly as well.
73. James Kaprielian, rhp
Beckman HS, Irvine, Calif.
Kaprielian's feel for pitching and projection made him an intriguing sleeper coming into the spring, but no one's sleeping on him after a stellar spring, which has included two no-hitters. Kaprielian is a standout athlete who was an aggressive linebacker for the Beckman football team, and his mean streak translates well to the mound. He attacks hitters with an 88-91 mph fastball that bumps 92 and has some sink. He has good fastball command for a high school pitcher, in spite of a herky-jerky delivery that can throw off his timing occasionally. He commands his 12-to-6 curveball even better than his fastball, and it projects as a plus pitch. He also shows feel for a sinking, fading changeup, and it could be an average to plus offering. If Kaprielian showed a bit more velocity he would be a first-round pick, but that may come in three years. He's committed to UCLA and his signability may cause him to drop in the draft.
74. Derick Velasquez, rhp
Merced (Calif.) JC
Velasquez came to Merced from a small high school — Los Banos (Calif.) High — so he didn't get a lot of scouting attention last year. It has been a different story this year, as scouts see present velocity and lots of projection. Velasquez sits in the 88-92 mph range with his fastball. While he has been down into the mid-80s at times late in a start, scouts think it's because he's worn out from playing both ways. Standing 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, he has a loose, athletic body scouts can dream on. He shows the potential for three plus pitches as he develops and continues to add strength and fill out. Velasquez throws a circle changeup and a curveball, and he hides the ball well and shows good command of his pitches. Velasquez is 18 and won't turn 19 until November, so he's younger than many of the top high school pitchers in this draft.
75. Edwin Diaz, rhp
Naguabo (P.R.) HS
Standing 6-foot-3 and 163 pounds, Diaz is the definition of skinny, and scouts aren't sure how much weight he'll add because of his narrow frame. Diaz's body has pros and cons. His long arms allow him to whip the ball with surprising velocity. He sits in the 92-95 mph range and touched 97 twice in his first outing at Puerto Rico's annual Excellence Tournament in early May. But, like many tall, gangly pitchers, he has trouble coordinating his limbs, which leads to spotty control and an inconsistent curveball. He also hasn't used a changeup much. Taken together, those factors lead many scouts to believe he fits best as a power reliever in pro ball. Diaz is relatively new to pitching, having just started when he was 15 years old. His cousin, Jose Melendez, pitched in the big leagues for parts of five seasons in the 1990s for Seattle, San Diego and Boston.