Summer Lists Give A Great Sneak Peek For The Draft
CHICAGO—Only the most dedicated baseball watchers knew who Cory Spangenberg was before last summer. Undrafted out of a Pennsylvania high school in 2009, he spent his first college season at Virginia Military Institute.
Spangenberg decided to transfer to Indian River (Fla.) JC, which made him eligible for the 2011 draft but didn't exactly leave scouts abuzz. Then he went to the Valley League and won the batting title (.399) and MVP. He ranked third on our Valley League Top 10 Prospects list and set the stage for his emergence as one of the best pure hitters available in this year's draft. The Padres took him with the 10th overall pick.
We're still nine months away from the 2012 draft, but if you want a preview, check out our summer college league prospect lists. This issue contains our Cape Cod League Top 10, as well as scouting reports on the top prospects in 18 other circuits. Visit BaseballAmerica.com and you'll find a Team USA Top 20, Cape Cod Top 30 and Top 10s for the 18 other leagues.
The first round of the draft in June included 19 college or junior college players, 14 of whom played summer ball last year. All but C.J. Cron—who just missed out in the Cape—made one of our prospect lists. The Cape and Team USA combined for 11 of those players, with the Valley claiming Spangenberg and the Atlantic Collegiate League boasting Chris Reed.
Cape Cod and Team USA are the preferred destinations for college players, and they'll again provide the bulk of the college first-rounders next year. Stanford righthander Mark Appel and Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero were 1-2 on our Team USA list, with Marrero No. 1 in our Cape rankings (Appel did not pitch enough to qualify for the list). They're the two best college players in the 2012 draft and on the short list to be the top overall pick.
Team USA's loaded 2010 roster produced seven 2011 first-rounders, and this year's squad could exceed that number next June. In addition to Appel and Marrero, righthanders Ryne Stanek (Arkansas), Kevin Gausman (Louisiana State), Marcus Stroman (Duke) and Michael Wacha (Texas A&M); first baseman/lefthander Brian Johnson (Florida); and catcher Josh Elander (Texas Christian) all could go in the first 31 picks, provided Stanek makes the eligibility cutoff as a sophomore.
The Cape featured its usual complement of first-round talents, with Georgia Southern teammates Chris Beck, a righthander, and Victor Roache, an outfielder, standing out among those who didn't also play for Team USA. Others to watch include San Francisco righthander Kyle Zimmer, Stony Brook outfielder Travis Jankowski and Clemson first baseman Richie Shaffer.
If you're looking for sleepers in less prominent leagues, George Mason righthander Brandon Kuter and Buffalo catcher Tom Murphy fit the bill. Kuter had little success in his first two years with the Patriots before dominating the ACBL and standing out with his 6-foot-7 frame, 92-96 mph fastball and plus slider. Murphy played briefly for Team USA before heading to the New England Collegiate League, where he showed the power and arm strength teams covet behind the plate. Another possibility is righthander Nolan Sanburn, who like his Arkansas teammate Stanek will be a sophomore-eligible in 2012 if the draft date doesn't change significantly after baseball's labor negotiations. Sanburn ran his fastball up to 98 mph at times in the Northwoods League and backed it up with a hard slider.
Our summer prospect lists not only preview of the best players in the next draft, but also introduce you to coming attractions further down the road. For example, our 2007 NECBL Top 10 started with a righthander who had just completed his freshman year at San Diego State with little fanfare. The hype started when "Steve" Strasburg regularly hit 96 mph for the Torrington Twisters.
This summer's No. 1 prospects include two intriguing rising sophomores who should factor early in the 2013 draft. Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge displayed tantalizing tools in the Alaska League, with plus-plus speed to go with an above-average bat, arm and defense—and he has untapped power potential in his 6-foot-7, 230-pound frame. Righthander Austin Kubitza is the next outstanding Rice pitching prospect, showing a darting low-90s fastball, a swing-and-miss slider and a projectable frame.
Two of our summer top prospects haven't even started their college careers and won't be draft-eligible until 2014. Oregon State lefthander Jace Fry carved up West Coast League opponents by mixing four pitches, highlighted by an 88-96 mph fastball. Maryland third baseman K.J. Hockaday turned down sandwich-round money from his hometown Orioles after displaying an advanced bat and promising power in the Cal Ripken League.
Many of these players are still relatively anonymous. But as Spangenberg showed, a standout summer league performance can be a springboard toward the top of the draft.