Draft Tracker: May 6

The big day is just a month away, so from now on we’ll start looking at players moving up and down draft boards every Wednesday. Here are six players making some noise right now . . .

Three Up

Mike Trout, of, Millville (N.J.) High

Nobody has done more with less than Mike Trout. Weather on the East Coast this spring has wreaked havoc with schedules, especially on the high school level. Trout’s Millville (N.J.) High had played just 11 games as of this week. The Thunderbolts have had about a dozen games postponed. But because of constant communication between Trout, his family, coach and scouts, he has been crosschecked like guys that are suppose to be locks for the first 10 picks. There was a window of sunshine before a game against local foe Vineland (N.J.) High and Trout’s head coach, Roy Hallenbeck, arranged for a batting practice session at Millville that was attended by more than 30 scouts, crosscheckers and directors.

In those 11 games Trout has become a no-doubt first-round candidate. He’s a very strong, athletic outfielder with tremendous speed. In a game this past weekend he got down the line in 4.06 seconds from the right side, making him a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has very strong forearms and wrists that generate good bat speed and the ball rockets off of his bat. He’s also very aggressive. After reaching on the infield single he advanced to second with a stolen base and then scored from second when the second baseman mishandled a ground ball.

“He has become an absolute favorite of scouts,” an American League scout said. “He’s like (Aaron) Rowand, but he’s faster than Rowand. With the Phillies, Rowand was a fringe-average runner with great instincts. He’s got that Rowand makeup—gritty, hard-nosed. He’s not a slam dunk to hit. But I’ll take my chance on him with the makeup.”

Through 11 games Trout was hitting .514/.638/1.257 in 35 at-bats with seven home runs, 24 runs scored and six stolen bases.

Tanner Scheppers, rhp, St. Paul Saints

We’ve been cautious with our ranking of Scheppers, being that he hadn’t thrown a pitch after injuring his shoulder with Fresno State last year. A first-round talent last year, Scheppers slid to the second round after the injury, but the Pirates didn’t sign him. The move looks to be paying off, as the 6-foot-4 righthander has returned to the mound and is flashing the stuff that propelled him to a 8-2, 2.93 record last season with 109 strikeouts and 34 walks over 71 innings.

Late last month, Scheppers pitched in scrimmages at Golden West (Calif.) JC and was reportedly a little wild, but was sitting at 95-96 mph with his fastball, touching 98. On May 4, he pitched in his first game with the independent St. Paul Saints—an exhibition game against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.

“We saw him really, really good,” an American League scouting director said. “Our guys said he’s going in the first five picks, the top 10 for sure.”

Scheppers was throwing on the one-year anniversary of his last live game action. As a junior at Fresno State, he was shut down last May with a shoulder injury. He showed little signs of rust, as he generally located his pitches, although he nibbled a little in the second inning which led to some of the walks.

“You don’t see that kind of velocity every day,” St. Paul manager George Tsamis said. “It’s so nice and smooth, nice and easy. He’s got a real good arm on him . . . The gun they have there, we saw a lot of 95s, 97s, one 98. He looked real good and he has that good biting curveball. He threw some good ones last night. A few of the called strikeouts were on curveballs.”

The goal for Scheppers was simply to get four innings of work. He was efficient, thanks in part to a pair of double plays, and needed just 54 pitches to get his four innings in. He’s scheduled to return to the mound on May 10 against Winnipeg, with a plan of getting  five innings of work. He’ll make his first official outing of the season on May 16 against Sioux Falls.

Ryan Buch, rhp, Monmouth

Righthander Ryan Buch burst onto the prospect landscape in 2007, when he went 9-2, 2.44 as a freshman at Monmouth and then ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Atlantic Collegiate League that summer. He’s always had a prototype pitcher’s frame and an excellent curveball, but his stock has begun to soar in recent weeks along with his velocity.

Buch has reached the low 90s with his fastball since he was a freshman, and he has still pitched in that range for most of this spring. But recently he began to run his fastball up to 95, sitting at 92-93. The velocity on his sharp, downer curveball has also spiked, occasionally reaching 84-85 mph. Even when he throws it slower—and some scouts report seeing a 74-77 breaker, while others have seen it at 81-82—it’s still a true above-average offering. But when he throws it harder, it can rate as a 70—or even higher—on the 20-80 scouting scale.

“I think he’s scratching the surface of what he can be,” one area scout said. “He’s a very, very athletic guy, and he’s got pretty good size. Previously he was 89-91, and he’d show you an above-average curveball. Now he’s in a totally different area. He’s one of those names people will say, ‘Where did he come from?’ “

Buch is still working on refining his fastball command, which helps explain why he’s not dominating that level of competition. He’s 6-3, 3.93 this season with 69 strikeouts and 23 walks in 55 innings pitched, with 58 hits allowed. He does not have a lot of feel for his 71-77 mph changeup. But scouts can dream on him, and he seems very likely to be drafted in the first two rounds in June.

Three Down

Luke Bailey, c, Troup HS, LaGrange, Ga.

Bailey came into the season ranked as the top prep catcher in a great class of prep catchers. The 6-foot, 195-pounder is athletic and showed strong defensive skills to go along with a quality bat. He’s been on scouts’ radar for a while. As a member of the 2007 USA Youth National Team, Bailey hit a home run in the championship game against Brazil and impressed scouts with consistent pop times of less than 2 seconds. In our Draft Midseason Report, Bailey ranked as the No. 18 prospect.

However, as we reported on April 30, Bailey is out with a strained ulnar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery to repair.

Bailey could still end up being highly-drafted, perhaps to a team that didn’t expect to land the talented backstop and is willing to be patient with his recovery. But going under the knife is never beneficial to a player’s draft stock, especially a month before the big day.

One scout said the injury wouldn’t kill his draft stock because Bailey’s ability to catch-and-throw was not in question. But he loses valuable at-bats to prove to scouts that his bat was first-round worthy.

Grant Green, ss, Southern California

Green was a monster last year, hitting .390/.438/.644 with nine home runs. He followed that up by ranking as BA’s No. 1 prospect in the Cape Cod League and, entering the season, was the top position player in this year’s class.

We’ve stuck by him as the No. 2 guy behind Strasburg for a long time, but it’s becoming more and more clear that a little case of “draftitis” has Green sliding down boards late in the year.

Scouts have complained about Green playing with a lack of energy this season, and his 15 errors this year tie him for second-most in the Pac-10. He got off to a very slow start, going 11-for-47 (.234) over his first 13 games before heating up with back-to-back 3-for-5 games against Winthrop at the end of March.

While he’s still leading the Trojans in batting average, his .368/.436/.561 line shows regression across the board from what he hit last year. He has only hit three home runs this season, none of which have come against Pacific-10 Conference opponents.

D.J. LeMahieu, ss/2b, Louisiana State

It’s a down year for middle infielders. As we wrote in the last installment of the Draft Tracker, Ryan Jackson’s season has been a disappointment and, as noted above, Grant Green’s sliding a bit, as well.

Another middle infielder who’s stock is dropping is LSU’s D.J. LeMahieu. His line this season isn’t bad: .352/.429/.480, though he isn’t showing a lot of power for his size.

And it’s that size that could be hurting other aspects of his game—he’s already moving left on the defensive spectrum. At 6-foot-4, 193 pounds, there were some questions about him sticking at shortstop long-term and he’s already shifted over to second base this year. The last time LeMahieu played shortstop for the Tigers was April 19.

LeMahieu is in a similar situation as Tennessee outfielder Kentrail Davis, who was also in the last Draft Tracker. As a draft-eligible sophomore, he has a little more leverage than most draft-eligible players and could be best served by coming back for his junior year.

Contributing: Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, Conor Glassey, John Manuel, Nathan Rode