Kentucky Scouting Reports

***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here

A year after having just two players taken on the draft’s first day, Kentucky has much more to offer in this year’s draft. The University of Kentucky finished tied with Alabama for the Southeastern Conference regular season title, and earned a regional berth for the first time in more than a decade. John Shelby and Ryan Streiby were Kentucky’s catalysts, and both players were expected to go in the top 10 rounds. The state’s high school class doesn’t offer a high-ceiling prospect as promising as Chaz Roe, who was taken with the 32nd overall pick in 2005, but the class has better depth than in recent years. “The high school class is definitely better than it has been the last two years, but it’s not as good as it was in the mid- to late-90s,” one scout said.

National Top 200 Prospects

1. Jordan Newton, c, Western Kentucky
2. John Shelby, 2b, Kentucky

Other Players Of Note

3. Ryan Strieby, 1b, Kentucky
4. Nathan Adcock, rhp, North Hardin HS, Elizabethtown
5. Clint Tilford, rhp, Heath HS, Paducah
6. Tyler Blandford, rhp, Davies County HS, Owensboro
7. Charlie Yarborough, 1b, Eastern Kentucky
8. Sean Coughlin, c, Kentucky
9. Zach Dials, rhp, Kentucky
10. Paul David Patterson, rhp, Northern Kentucky
11. Aaron Tennyson, lhp, Kentucky
12. B.J. Rosenberg, rhp, Louisville
13. Isaiah Howes, of, Louisville
14. Brian Halford, rhp, Louisville
15. Chris Cates, 2b, Louisville
16. Justin Marks, lhp, Owensboro Catholic HS, Owensboro

1. Jordan Newton, c (National rank: 149)
School: Western Kentucky. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Hodgenville, Ky.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 8/29/85.
Scouting Report: This year’s draft doesn’t offer any surefire frontline catchers, making Newton a strong candidate to be taken higher than his skills might otherwise dictate. He’s an average defender with above-average arm strength and a respectable track record as a hitter. He was batting .364/.500/.775 with 11 home runs and 11 steals as a junior, marking the second straight season he had posted double-digits in homers. His athleticism lends upside, and he was recruited as a strong safety by several colleges. Newton, who was taken by the Mets in the 31st round out of high school in 2003, is a 4.1-second runner from home to first and plays center field occasionally when he is not catching. He has been compared to Craig Biggio and Jason Kendall for his quickness and agility behind the plate, and Paul Lo Duca and Marcus Giles for his compact, stocky frame. His arm strength is above-average, though he needs work on his exchange and accuracy, as well as receiving and game-calling. He has good bat speed and a feel for the strike zone, with willingness to hit balls to all fields. Some scouts and coaches say he has an indifferent attitude. He was dismissed him from practice at least once last fall, and he was suspended for a weekend series this spring for skipping a mandatory weightlifting session. A club that buys into his ability to improve as a catcher could draft Newton as early as the fourth round.

2. John Shelby, 2b(National rank: 158)
School: Kentucky. Class: So.
Hometown: Lexington, Ky.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Birthdate: 8/6/85.
Scouting Report: The top prospect in the Bluegrass state is the son of former major leaguer and current Pirates coach John Shelby and has been a key contributor to the Wildcats’ first regional berth since 1993. Shelby went undrafted out of high school but hit .344-10-52 as a sophomore to put his name on the prospect radar. He played his best late in the year, and had hit nine of his 13 home runs in Southeastern Conference play. Shelby has good bat speed and an aggressive approach. He has an uppercut in his swing, which lends slightly above-average power. He needs to improve his strike-zone discipline. He spent most of his freshman year playing outfield, and played shortstop and second base as well. Consensus suggests second base is his future position, and he showed better hands and improved his body control on throws from all angles at second this spring. His instincts figure to help him become an average defender. He’s a slightly above-average runner.

Bluegrass Revival

The Wildcats became the first team to go from worst to first in the SEC, setting a school record for wins behind a powerful lineup. The team knew it could count on Shelby’s contribution from the start, but the production Kentucky received from first baseman Ryan Strieby (.344-20-77) was a surprise. At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, Strieby has a massive frame with plenty of strength. He played in a wood-bat league in his native Washington at Edmonds Community College in 2004 and ’05, preparing him for his tour in the SEC, where he became the conference’s player of the year. He prefers to get his burly arms extended and pull balls out of the park to left field, but his power spans from foul pole to foul pole. He has a feel for the strike zone, but Strieby has a tough time laying off good breaking balls. Defensively, he’s average at best with adequate hands and a below-average arm. He’s a well-below-average runner. He could go as high as the sixth round if a club is enamored of his power.

Lefthanded-hitting catcher Sean Coughlin also honed his swing in a wood-bat junior college league before coming to Kentucky. He was a 32nd-round pick of the Pirates out of high school in 2003. Born in Texas and raised in Colorado, Coughlin comes from an affluent background and he won’t sign for a pittance. He can turn on balls on the inner half but struggles to handle pitches away, and his catch-and-throw skills are fringy. He has good makeup and a desire to improve.

Zach Dials and senior Aaron Tennyson are the Wildcats’ top two draft-eligible pitchers, but they probably won’t go in the top 10 rounds. Tennyson has good control and feel for pitching. His breaking ball is below-average and his fastball sits between 86-89 mph. Dials has been up to 90-92, and has done so in front of at least a handful of upper-level scouting supervisors. He has trouble repeating his delivery. When he’s online and gets extended toward his target, his fastball has some sink and armside run. He has below-average control.

Eastern Kentucky first baseman Charlie Yarborough was the Ohio Valley Conference player of the year on the strength of a 17-homer season. He was the No. 1 prospect in the Great Lakes League in 2005, and his lone plus tool is his raw power. He can drive the ball out to all parks of the park. He will work counts and can square up good fastballs, as he showed when he turned around Miami (Ohio) righty Connor Graham. He’s not much of an athlete, but he has fair hands at first base and makes the routine plays.

Paul David Patterson was drafted in the 44th round by Seattle a year ago, and should be taken again this season. He has not made significant strides this spring and has never developed a reliable secondary offering, but he has a great pitcher’s frame and his fastball sits near 91 mph.

Kentucky’s high school crop is thin, and while scouts like the potential of some of the pitchers, they were not optimistic any of them would get drafted highly enough to sign them away from college. Clint Tilford should head off to Lexington with a full academic scholarship to UK. He has a lean, athletic body and an 89-91 mph fastball. Louisville signee Nathan Adcock has been up to 90 mph with a better present breaking ball than Tilford. He lacks the  mound presence Tilford has, and his mechanics sometimes get out of whack.

Tyler Blandford’s stuff is more electric than Tilford’s and Adcock’s, but he comes with makeup concerns and a violent delivery. His fastball has been up to 94 mph, and he can spin a hard slider that at times grades as an above-average offering. He throws across his body and doesn’t properly incorporate his lower half in his delivery.