Idle speculation: With football coach Tyrone Willingham on the way out at Washington, would quarterback Jake Locker become more interested in baseball? Coming out of high school, Locker was one of the best athletes available in the 2006 draft, but had zero interest in turning pro in baseball. Currently sidelined with a broken thumb, he did play as an outfielder in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League this summer, where we ranked him as the No. 1 prospect.
Here's John Manuel's scouting report from our WCCBL Top 10 :
Locker is better known for being Ty Willingham's quarterback at Washington, and on Pacific-10 Conference media day this year, Locker said he wasn't going to play baseball again. But scouts and managers who saw him in the WCCBL believe he has a future in baseball if football doesn't work out. Locker was celebrated in high school as a pitching prospect, reaching 96 mph in the Washington state playoffs, but he's lost some flexibility due to his football training. But he's a powerful athlete with a Gabe Kapler build, well above-average speed and off-the charts makeup. Despite two years away from baseball (he hasn't played for the Huskies), Locker showed good hands that work at the plate and a competitive approach with plus raw power. He just scratched the surface this summer, and his baseball future essentially depends on whether or not he succeeds in football. While he completed less than 50 percent of his passes as a redshirt freshman last fall, Locker also ran for nearly 1,000 yards.
Actually, the question in the last Ask BA dealt with how I compared three specific lefty/righty pairs of prospects to one another, not which I thought was the best in baseball. There was some confusion, leading to several e-mails like this one, so here we go with my top 10 lefty/right duos (considering only one pair per organization):
1. David Price/Wade Davis, Rays
Yes, Tampa Bay's pitching is going to get even better.
2. Derek Holland/Neftali Feliz, Rangers
Just 17 months ago, Holland was in junior college and Feliz was a Brave.
3. Brett Anderson/Trevor Cahill, Athletics
Both were lights out in Double-A and Olympians at age 20.
4. Brian Matusz/Chris Tillman, Orioles
Matusz was the best pitcher in the 2008 draft; Tillman was part of the Erik Bedard heist.
5. Madison Bumgarner/Tim Alderson, Giants
The 2007 first-round picks each won full-season ERA titles as 19-year-olds.
6. Cole Rohrbough/Tommy Hanson, Braves
They're two examples of how well Atlanta mastered the draft-and-follow process.
7. Ross Detwiler/Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
They're the two best arm from Washington's pitching-heavy 2007 draft crop.
8. Sean West/Ryan Tucker, Marlins
West has rebounded from labrum surgery; Tucker could be Florida's future closer.
9. Franklin Morales/Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies
Both had stunning years, though Morales was as disappointing as Chacin was surprising.
10. Casey Crosby/Rick Porcello, Tigers
Crosby is rebounding from Tommy John surgery, while Porcello won the FSL ERA title.
They're not ready to make this list yet, but one sleeper duo to watch from the 2008 draft is Mike Montgomery and Tim Melville from the Royals.
Moreland led the MWL in hitting, slugging, RBIs (99) and extra-base hits (59). His performance was mitigated by his age (22) relative to a low Class A league, and it wasn't unexpected from a player with major college experience. He was a 17th-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2007.
But scouts and managers did like Moreland's bat and power. He does face two major obstacles, though, in Chris Davis, who seized the Rangers' first-base job this year, and Justin Smoak, the 11th overall pick in the June draft. While Moreland did play some right field, he's a below-average runner and athlete who's best suited for first base.
Interestingly, Texas brought Moreland to instructional league—as a pitcher. He was a two-way player in college and made two mound appearances for Clinton this summer. MWL observers noted his arm strength and wondered what he would look like if he focused on pitching. The Rangers had him do just that in instructional league—he wasn't going to gain much from further hitting instruction—and he showed a 90-93 mph fastball and an average slider. As a bonus, he's a lefthander.
Texas hasn't made any permanent decisions about Moreland's future. They may take a look at him both ways in the spring training, and could let him do some hitting and pitching in 2009. The next logical step for would be high Class A Bakersfield, and if Smoak also is assigned there, Moreland likely would play the outfield and DH.
Berger first caught my eye when he pitched in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2005, after his freshman season at Arizona. I ranked him the 13th-best prospect in the league, two spots behind Justin Masterson and two ahead of Tim Lincecum. Using a high arm slot, Berger drove his 90-93 mph fastball down in the strike zone and also spun a nice 12-to-6 curveball and flashed a nifty changeup.
At that point, Berger projected as a possible first-rounder for the 2007 draft. But he blew out his elbow after seven starts as a sophomore and needed to have it reconstructed. He redshirted and didn't pitch in 2007, though the Athletics drafted him in the ninth round anyway.
Berger opened this season in Arizona's bullpen but eventually reclaimed his spot in the rotation. He struck out 11 against Kentucky in a regional playoff clincher, and took the loss but pitched well against Miami in the super-regional finale. The Indians signed him for $125,000 and he has the chance to be a bargain.
He has gotten his command back, as Paul mentioned, posting a 45-11 K-BB ratio in 38 pro innings. Berger went 2-0, 2.11 and reached low Class A before the end of the summer. His stuff isn't all the way back yet, as his fastball currently sits at 89-91 mph and his curveball lacks some of its former power, but he should continue to get stronger as he puts more distance between himself and his surgery. The Indians aren't afraid to send college pitchers to high Class A in their first full pro seasons, so look for Berger to open 2009 at Kinston.