2006 Team USA Top 10 Prospects

Baseball America ran its top prospects for the college summer leagues last issue, but we did not include Team USA, where many of the nation’s best collegiate prospects spend the summer. The 2006 team, which went 28-2 and captured the World University Championship in Cuba, was particularly prospect laden, making it difficult to limit a top prospects list to just 10. But after getting input from all three members of the USA coaching staff as well as scouts, we thought we’d give it a shot:

1. David Price, lhp, Vanderbilt

Price won BA’s Summer Player of the Year Award with a nearly flawless summer, going 5-1, 0.20 with 61 strikeouts and seven walks in 44 innings. He overwhelmed hitters with a plus fastball that sat in the low 90s and jumped up as high as 95-97 mph when he needed it, particularly early in the summer. He also owns a vicious hard-breaking slider that rates as an above-average pitch, and he worked hard this summer to make his changeup a solid offering as well. If Price can continue to avoid big innings and pitch within himself like he did for Team USA, he must be considered the early favorite for the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft.

2. Pedro Alvarez, 3b, Vanderbilt

Alvarez followed up his Freshman of the Year spring at Vandy by leading Team USA in batting (.379), doubles (12) and RBIs (43) to go along with five home runs. With a big, strong build that evokes a lefthanded-hitting version of Albert Pujols, Alvarez also has an offensive approach and work ethic reminiscent of the Cardinals slugger. He is still learning to hit lefthanded pitching, but he already handles breaking balls very well and can hit mammoth home runs to right field or smash the ball to the left-center field alley. Defensively, Alvarez has plenty of arm strength, spring in his thick legs and fairly soft hands at the hot corner. He should only get better the more he plays the position as long as he keeps his body in check.

3. Daniel Moskos, lhp, Clemson

Team USA’s shutdown closer could probably succeed in the rotation just as easily, thanks to his arsenal of two above-average pitches (and a chance for a third). But he could also stick in the pen, where he put up a 35-4 strikeout-walk ratio in 21 innings over 18 appearances, recording six saves and a stingy 0.86 ERA. Like Price, Moskos can dominate solely with his mid-90s fastball with excellent late run and his hard slider. But like Price, he also flashes a promising changeup, and he is not afraid to throw any pitch in any count.

4. Julio Borbon, of, Tennessee

Borbon probably boosted his stock more this summer than any other Team USA player. He showcased an outstanding all-around game, finishing second to Alvarez with a .364 batting average while leading the team with 15 stolen bases in 18 attempts and adding four home runs. Borbon draws comparisons to Johnny Damon for his well-above-average speed, ability to get on base with a drag bunt or by spraying line drives with backspin all over the field, and for his off-the-charts makeup. Like Damon, Borbon has good range in center field but his arm is his weakest tool. And like Damon, the lefthanded-hitting Borbon is strong enough to project for 20-homer power down the road.

5. Jemile Weeks, 2b, Miami

The younger brother of Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, Jemile played a major part in Miami’s run to the College World Series and captured first-team All-Freshman honors this spring, and he kept that momentum going in the summer. Weeks was the perfect No. 2 hitter behind Borbon and ahead of Alvarez and J.P. Arencibia, thanks to his ability to lay down bunts, make hard contact from both sides of the plate, and wreak havoc with his plus speed on the basepaths. Like his bigger older brother, Weeks has lightning-quick hands that allow him to hit for more power than his 5-foot-9, 155-pound frame would suggest he possesses, but he still needs to refine his  game. Defensively, he has good range, sure hands and an accurate (if not exceptionally strong) arm.

6. Cole St.Clair, lhp, Rice

Another CWS standout who carried his success over into the summer, St.Clair’s numbers in a bullpen stopper role (4-0, 0.69 with a 43-8 K-BB ratio in 26 innings) rivaled or perhaps even exceeded those of Moskos. At 6-foot-5, 225, St.Clair is taller and leaner than Moskos, and his stuff is nearly as explosive. St.Clair rocks back early in his delivery, making it hard for hitters to get a rhythm against him, and he gets plenty of deception thanks to his big leg kick. As a result, his fastball explodes on hitters, looking even harder than the 91-94 mph it is. He also flashes a plus breaking ball and has some feel for a changeup, though he still needs to develop it.

7. J.P. Arencibia, c, Tennessee

Arencibia caught fire at the World University Championship in Cuba, clubbing four home runs on his way to a Team USA-high nine long balls on the summer in just 121 at-bats. He also made a difference behind the plate, establishing a good rapport with his talented pitching staff and Spanish-speaking umpires alike. He has a strong arm but must improve his footwork and release, but whether he remains a catcher or moves to first base, his bat should carry him. Arencibia is a dead pull hitter with easy above-average power and a solid offensive approach, though he needs to continue to improve against breaking balls.

8. Jake Arrieta, rhp, Texas Christian

After going 14-4, 2.35 with 111 strikeouts and just 37 walks in 111 innings for TCU this spring, Arrieta was tired from the outset of the summer, leading to a dramatic increase in his walk rate. He still went 4-0, 0.27 with 34 strikeouts in 33 innings despite issuing 23 free passes, a testament to how well he keeps hitters off balance and causes them to take bad swings. Arrieta has a classic pitcher’s frame (6-foot-4, 225) and mostly clean mechanics, though he throws across his body a bit, adding to his deception. He rarely drops below or climbs above the 90-92 mph range with his fastball, which he needs to command better. Arrieta also throws an average to plus slider and showed a plus changeup in his last start of the summer against Japan.

9. Ross Detwiler, lhp, Missouri State

Detwiler dazzled Team USA coaches and players during trials by striking out eight USA hitters in just three innings, and he showed more glimpses of his enormous talent at other times this summer, going 2-0, 0.95 with a 22-9 K-BB ratio in 19 innings. His stuff is not as hard as Price’s or Moskos’, but his thin 6-foot-4 frame has plenty of room for projection, so he could add velocity to a fastball that sits in the 91-92 range and touches 93-94. Detwiler also throws a curveball that can be slurvy but is devastating when it’s on, and he is working on a changeup. Detwiler needs to improve his command within the zone and work on repeating his delivery better.

10. Todd Frazier, of, Rutgers

Frazier showed off his immense raw power–the biggest on the team–with a mammoth upper-deck home run in the final game of the World University Championship, and his batting practice displays were jaw-dropping. He is a very good athlete who played shortstop for Rutgers but almost certainly profiles as a corner infielder or outfielder because of his strong 6-foot-4 frame. Frazier, whose older brothers Charles (Marlins) and Jeff (Tigers) also have played pro ball, hit just .241 with four homers on the summer but made strides with learning to hit breaking balls and recognizing that he does not have to overswing in order to drive the ball a long way. He has tremendous balance in the box and good vision, so he should be able to learn to stay back on balls and make more consistent contact.