Draft Tracker: May 25
In the final installment of Draft Tracker for this year, each writer picked a "gut-feel" guy from their area. . .
Kevin Brady, rhp, Clemson
Plenty of scouts will descend on Durham, N.C., for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament this week. (So will plenty of BA staffers but that's another story.) One of the players to watch most closely for the scouts will be Brady, if only because they haven't seen much of him lately.
A redshirt sophomore, Brady made three starts for Clemson in February and March and was outstanding. He struck out 19 while walking one in 12.1 innings against Eastern Michigan and Michigan State, giving up just six hits and one run. Then he started against South Carolina, striking out four more in four innings while giving up only one run. But he had to leave that start with what was termed a forearm strain, and he didn't pitch again for 71 days. One American League area scout said, "He was really good in his first start, 93-94 mph. But now I guess he's probably done for the year."
But he wasn't. Clemson alerted area scouts that Brady would pitch out of the bullpen against Davidson on May 17, and he tossed a scoreless inning. That was in a fairly meaningless 19-0 romp. On Friday, Brady was thrown into the fire and responded well, striking out four of the five Florida State batters he faced. He served as a bridge to closer Scott Weisman and Clemson won the second game of the series.
The next day, the Tigers called on Brady again to set up Weisman, and he faltered. With a fastball that sat in the mid-to-upper 80s, Brady gave up a pair of runs and plenty of hard contact but kept Clemson ahead, and Weisman closed out the victory as the Tigers won the series.
Brady's secondary stuff was just playable rather than special early in the year, but he has a good cutter and has a power arm when he's right. Scouts already have to deal with Brady's leverage as an eligible sophomore, and now they have to figure out how healthy he is. They aren't convinced Brady can start at the big league level; Clemson may not even need him to start right now. But anything he can provide would help its case to get back to the College World Series.
Tony Cingrani, rhp, Rice
Cingrani broke former big leaguer Tim Byrdak's single-season and career strikeout records at South Suburban (Ill.) JC, then followed Byrdak's path and transferred to Rice. After he posted an 8.59 ERA in six starts as a junior, the Owls overhauled Cingrani's delivery and moved him to the bullpen, and his transformation has been dramatic.
Now that the 6-foot-5, 205-pound lefthander has quickened his arm action and is staying more compact and more on top of his pitches, he's working at 92-94 mph and touching 97 with his fastball. He finished the regular season with a 1.92 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 52 innings.
He pitches mostly off his heater, though the hope is that his below-average slider can improve once he gets more consistent innings in pro ball. He's one of the more attractive senior signs in the draft.
Jordan Cote, rhp, Winnisquam (N.H.) HS
The high school pitching class in Massachusetts has gotten a significant amount of
attention this spring, and deservedly so, but at least one talent evaluator believes Cote has a chance to be the Northeast's best arm.
"Cote's as good as all of the Massachusetts guys," he said. "To me, he's right up there with [Tyler] Beede. They're similar to each other; Cote just hasn't had as much exposure."
Like Beede, Cote has a projectable frame and has generated serious draft buzz. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Cote has seen his stock rise by stringing together solid starts this spring. On Monday, Cote pitched a complete-game two-hitter, while striking out 11 and walking none in front of a handful of scouts. But Beede has advanced secondary stuff and more polish than Cote, which is what separates the pair of pitchers on most draft boards.
Cote's fastball sits at 88-90 mph and touches 92, though scouts think his velocity
will jump as he adds strength because of his great hand speed. He has a lot of
moving parts in his delivery, as he's still growing into his body, restricting him from
throwing a consistent breaking ball. Cote has better feel for his curveball than his
slider, but he can spin the ball, and his changeup is a work in progress.
With a reportedly high price tag, Cote is considered a difficult sign away from his
Coastal Carolina commitment. But his package of size, stuff and ceiling might make it worth the investment.
Matt Koch, c, Loyola Marymount
In a world where catchers are always in demand, Koch has a chance to be drafted between the sixth and 10th rounds. A fourth-year junior, Koch has two carrying tools: an above-average arm and provocative raw power that he's still learning to tap into.
He hit 15 homers as a redshirt sophomore in 2010, and though he has just four with the new bats in 2011, his doubles total has spiked from 13 to 22. LMU coach Jason Gill says the 6-foot, 210-pound Koch has some of the best raw power he's ever seen—"ridiculous power"—and he puts on an impressive display in batting practice, regularly launching balls way over LMU's Blue Monster in left field.
Scouts aren't convinced that he'll hit for enough average to be an everyday catcher, as his plate discipline needs considerable improvement (he has 118 strikeouts and 37 walks in his college career). Behind the plate, his receiving still needs some polishing, but he projects as an average defender with that aforementioned plus arm.
Benton Moss, rhp, Rocky Mount (N.C.) HS
There is a chance that Moss' name will not be announced by the time 50 rounds of the draft are completed, but don't use that to judge his talent. Moss is arguably the most unsignable player in the draft thanks to being a winner of the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship at North Carolina. His entire education is paid for through the foundation, from tuition and summer programs all the way down to a computer and supplies. After Moss was awarded the scholarship one scout quipped, "He's practically being paid to go to school." Moss is obviously gifted with smarts and he uses that to instill a mature approach on the baseball field.
He's also a tireless worker, spending countless hours honing his craft on the mound while keeping up with some of the most rigorous academics a high school education can offer. A skinny righthander at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Moss has plenty of projection remaining. After a rough outing at the East Coast Pro Showcase in Lakeland, Fla., Moss worked with some scouts that helped him get his mechanics straightened out. He also dedicated himself to a new workout regiment that focused on strengthening his core and legs. It has all paid off as Moss showed improved stuff and endurance at the Under Armour All-America Game in August and at the World Wood Bat Championships in October.
This spring, Moss was sitting 88-91 and touching 92 with his fastball. He had a loopy, low-70s curveball last summer, but he adopted a new grip that was recommended to him by Kyle Smith, the 5-foot-10 righthander in South Florida. Moss' curveball now sits in the mid 70s with good, sharp bite. He also has solid command for a high school pitcher. It's a safe bet that Moss will end up on campus in the fall, but with his current arsenal, projection, work ethic and mental tools, he could take off in his time with the Tar Heels.
Mitchell Walding, ss, St. Mary's HS, Stockton, Calif.
It's a great year for high school talent in Northern California, both at the top with righthanders Robert Stephenson and Joe Ross, and in terms of depth. Walding just missed making our crowded Top 200 list, but he could definitely go in the fourth to sixth round.
As the quarterback for his high school football team, Walding didn't get many looks this summer or fall. He didn't make the Area Code Games roster, but still has a lot of things going on that scouts like. With a 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame, Walding wouldn't look out of place in a pro clubhouse. He's athletic and agile for his size, but has fringy speed. While evaluators aren't unanimously convinced he will remain at shortstop long-term, he'll at least get a chance to stay there until he plays his way off. Walding has at least average arm strength, but it could get better if he's able to fix a hitch in his throwing motion. Walding is a good student with a lot of passion for the game.
He hits from the left side of the plate where he has very good bat speed, sound swing mechanics and a patient approach. He tracks the ball well, letting it travel deep and is comfortable taking his hits the other way. He doesn't have a lot of power yet, but it's in there.
Walding will spend this summer with the Cowlitz Black Bears of the West Coast League. If he does not sign, he is committed to Oregon.
Contributing: Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, Matt Forman, Conor Glassey, John Manuel & Nathan Rode