Scouting Reports: Alabama

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The amount of talent goes up and down from one year to the next, but one staple of players from Alabama is the passion they play with. If you’re looking for polished approaches and perfect pitching mechanics, you might not always like what you see, but the state has developed a reputation for developing prospects that have all the physical tools as well as an overachieving mentality.

The 2007 Alabama class embodies that description. Though just eight players from the state cracked the Top 200 Prospects list, each maximizes his ability. The talent drops off quickly after that group, however, as the state has a good selection of second- to fifth-round talent without much of a supporting cast.

National Top 200

Kentrail Davis
, of, Theodore (Ala.)
Kevin Patterson
, 1b/c, Oak Mountain HS,
3. Josh Donaldson, c,
Brandon Hamilton
, rhp, Stanhope Elmore HS, Millbrook,
5. Tommy Hunter, rhp,
Hunter Morris
, 1b, Grissom HS, Huntsville,
7. Cale Iorg, ss,
Austin Bailey
, rhp, Prattville (Ala.)

Other Prospects Of

9. Ross Wilson, 2b, Hoover (Ala.) HS
10. Danny Danielson, rhp, Russell County HS, Seale, Ala.
11. Mike Bianucci, of, Auburn
12. Emeel Salem, of, Alabama
13. Jeff Cunningham, 1b, South Alabama
14. D.J. Jones, of, Gulf Shores (Ala.) HS
15. Bruce Edwards, of, Auburn
16. Josh Dew, rhp, Troy
17. Craig Kimbrell, rhp, Wallace State (Ala.) CC
18. Joel Collins, c, South Alabama
19. Trent Mummy, of, Pinson Valley HS, Pinson, Ala.
20. Courtney Jefferson, of, Russell County HS, Seale, Ala.
21. Trey Vice, lhp, Westbrook Christian HS, Rainbow City, Ala.
22. Jon Jacobs, rhp, Jackson (Ala.) HS
23. Nathan Kilcrease, rhp, Glenwood Academy, Phenix City, Ala.


1. Kentrail Davis,
of (National rank:

Theodore (Ala.) HS. Class:
B-T: L-R.
Ht.: 5-9.
Wt.: 195.

When Davis was growing up, he spent his summers helping his father haul
concrete and cinder blocks for his job, which developed his upper body
considerably. He’s built like Kirby Puckett, with a barrel chest,
Popeye forearms and wide, thick hips. He was rear-ended in a traffic
accident before the season, which cost him the first month with neck
and back aches. At his best Davis is a sparkplug player with speed,
hustle and a live bat with pop. He performed much better last summer
than he has this spring. His swing is less fluid and he hasn’t driven
the ball as well, but he has above-average bat speed and plus raw
power. He has feel for the strike zone and hits the top half of the
ball well. He’ll likely move to a corner outfield spot as a pro. He has
a fringe-average arm. Davis is represented by Scott Boras and could
plummet down draft boards if he isn’t taken in the top 50 picks. He’s
committed to

2. Kevin Patterson,
1b/c (National rank:

Oak Mountain HS, Birmingham. Class:
B-T: L-R.
Ht.: 6-4.
Wt.: 215.
Power is Patterson’s calling card, and he has
shown he has lots of it. During a scout-organized tryout for the East
Coast Showcase last summer at Mississippi State, he cleared the double
fences at Dudy Noble Field, and he mashed 17 home runs in a 10-out
round during a home run derby in the offseason. When his senior season
began, Patterson homered three times on his first three swings. He got
sick and missed the East Coast Showcase last summer, which prevented
him from showing his stuff to scouts outside his area, and then broke
his hamate bone this spring, which cost him most of this season. He
returned for the final two games and was working out for teams leading
up to the draft. He has a mature, muscular body and plus bat speed. His
swing lacks looseness, he tends to drift to the ball and is susceptible
to soft stuff away as well as fastballs above his hands. He’s raw but
adequate behind the plate, but not a fast-twitch, fluid athlete, so the
consensus is his final destination will be first base. Depending on how
he bounces back from his injury, he could be the first player drafted
from Alabama, as high as the second

3. Josh Donaldson, c
(National rank:

Auburn. Class:
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-1.
Wt.: 202.
After a prolific high school career in Mobile,
Ala., where Donaldson played football and basketball and starred as a
shortstop and pitcher, he has developed into a dependable, steady
player for the Tigers. He played third base as a freshman in 2005,
began catching as a sophomore and boosted his reputation with a strong
showing in the Cape Cod League last summer. A right thumb injury
limited his action behind the plate as a junior, but he had not missed
a game dating back to his freshman season. He’s a work in progress
defensively, but shows passable catch-and-throw skills with a
solid-average arm. He’s a hitter first, and has relied on plus bat
speed and an aggressive approach to pace Auburn in several offensive
categories, including double-digit home runs in back to back years. His
swing is unorthodox, and a hard front step that triggers his swing
should be toned down to improve his timing and balance. He’s
susceptible to good breaking balls. But Donaldson can murder good
fastballs, and did it with wood last summer when he hit .302 with 15
extra-base hits. He’ll go off the board as early as the supplemental
round and no later than the third

4. Brandon Hamilton,
rhp (National rank:

Stanhope Elmore HS, Millbrook, Ala. Class:
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-2.
Wt.: 190.
Based on his mature, muscular body and electric
stuff alone, Hamilton would be a first-rounder. But he has a violent
delivery and erratic command and has performed poorly as often as he
was spectacular as a senior. He could still be drafted as high as the
second round based on his considerable ceiling. His fastball has been
up to 95 mph and he pitches between 89-91. He shows a filthy, 80-82 mph
power curveball with downer action. He has feel for a changeup, and at
times will mix in a two-seam fastball that has plus armside fade, as
well. But with more than 30 scouts in to see an early-season outing,
Hamilton had no control of his breaking ball, leading to five wild
pitches, and baserunners ran wild, as he showed no ability or desire to
control the running

5. Tommy Hunter, rhp
(National rank:

Alabama. Class:
B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-4.
Wt.: 250.
A draft-eligible sophomore, Hunter could garner
attention as a third- to fourth-round pick if he’s willing to sign for
slot money. He stepped into the Tide rotation as a freshman last season
and won 10 games, then made 14 appearances out of the Team USA bullpen
last summer and compiled an impressive 23-4 strikeout-walk ratio. With
a soft body that’s not well proportioned, Hunter flunks scouts’ eye
test. He’s a two-time junior Olympic champion in judo, however, and
more athletic than he looks. He has a four-pitch repertoire, working
off a solid-average fastball that bumps 93 mph and a power slurve at
82-84. His delivery is passable and his arm works well. Some scouts see
him as a two-pitch set-up man in the mold of Braves reliever Tyler
Yates, something of a poor-man’s Jonathan Broxton. Others point out his
ability to hold his velocity late into games and believe he profiles as
a back-of-the-rotation

6. Hunter Morris, 1b
(National rank:

Grissom HS, Huntsville, Ala. Class:
B-T: L-R.
Ht.: 6-4.
Wt.: 200.
Morris has one of the best approaches among the
high school draft class. But outside of his polish at the plate, his
swing has holes and his defensive shortcomings are obvious. An Aflac
All-American, he enjoyed a successful high school career as a four-year
starter. In Grissom’s state quarterfinals loss, Morris broke a bone in
his right hand while taking a swing. He had surgery and was expected to
be able to swing a bat a week before the draft. The injury isn’t a
major issue because Morris wasn’t considered signable beyond the
sandwich round, and he has second- to third-round value. He’ll likely
attend Auburn, where he could be a mainstay in the heart of its batting
order. Morris is patient and powerful, and he feasts on fastballs over
the plate, especially down in the zone. He broke the Alabama record for
walks in a season with 59 this spring, eclipsing the 54 Athletics
farmhand Jeremy Brown racked up in 2002. His swing is grooved and
sweepy, and he struggles with pulling his hands inside the ball and
keeping his stroke short, which could present difficulties against more
experienced pitching. He’s stiff defensively, with a below-average arm,
meaning he’s probably best suited for first

7. Cale Iorg, ss
(National rank:

Alabama. Class:

B-T: R-R.
Ht.: 6-2.
Wt.: 175.
While Iorg was wrapping up his two-year Mormon
mission in Lisbon, Portugal, his parents’ home phone was ringing as
scouts tried to gauge his interest in signing a pro baseball contract.
Iorg posted a respectable .280 average with five homers and 15 stolen
bases in 2004 as Alabama’s everyday shortstop, but he has been abroad
since then. The son of former big league infielder Garth and nephew of
big league outfielder Dane, Cale had achieved assistant to the
president status during his mission, a high-ranking position, but was
scheduled to return to the U.S. July 14, which would give the team that
drafts him a month to work him out and negotiate before the new signing
deadline. Iorg hasn’t played in two years, but as a freshman he showed
outstanding feel for all phases of the game, a smooth swing and good
actions up the middle. He wasn’t going to sign for a pittance, but a
team will take a chance on him later in the draft just to see what
might happen this

8. Austin Bailey,
rhp (National rank:

Prattville (Ala.) HS. Class:
B-T: B-R.
Ht.: 6-0.
Wt.: 190.
When Bailey hooked up with an East Cobb (Ga.)
travel team as an underclassman, he proved he was capable of competing
with the best high school players in the country. He’s a strong,
undersized athlete with good tools on both sides of the game. His arm
strength is his best asset. He has an aggressive mentality and comes
right after hitters with a three-pitch mix. His fastball ranges from
88-93 mph. His secondary stuff is fringy, though he’ll flash a
curveball with depth and tight rotation. He has rudimentary feel for
his changeup. He’s still mostly a thrower and lacks much feel for
pitching. Because Bailey doesn’t project to get much bigger or throw
much harder, he’s considered a third- to fourth-round talent. Judging
his signability has been difficult, and if he slips past the fifth
round he could elect to attend

A Few Prep Risers

A year after the celebrated
Russell County High duo of Kasey Kiker and Cory Rasmus signed their pro
contracts and left their amateur legacy behind, Alabama offered a
strong sequel from the prep ranks. Hunter Morris and Kentrail Davis
both appeared in the Aflac Classic last summer, and Kevin Patterson,
Brandon Hamilton and Austin Bailey all showed flashes of dominance
during the spring.

Although Alabama’s secondary group of prep
players isn’t deep, two players in particular made significant
improvements from last summer to their senior seasons: Danny Danielson and Ross Wison.

a righthander who transferred to Russell County High prior to his
junior season, was the team’s No. 3 starter last year, but after Kiker
and Rasmus graduated to the minors, Danielson seized his opportunity.
He pitched the Warriors to the state finals with a one-hitter against a
strong Daphne High squad, a shutotut of Prattville High in a showdown
with Bailey, and seven strong innings in a complete game in the opener
of the 6-A finals series against Hillcrest High of Tuscaloosa.

before Danielson’s postseason heroics, scouts were beginning to take
notice of his improvement, and one said he could be better than Bailey
once he fills out his lean, 6-foot-4 frame. Danielson’s delivery is
clean and his arm works well. He logged more than 95 innings, and
perhaps as a result of his workload the 92 mph fastballs he was dealing
in March and April were more 88-89 mph down the stretch. His changeup
is a plus offering and his curveball is average. He made strides in his
feel for pitching, and he shows solid-average command of all three of
his pitches, indicated by 128-20 strikeout-walk totals this spring. He
could be taken as early as the third round.

Wilson has a better
pedigree, but like Danielson he elevated his game this year. The
brother of Alabama starting quarterback J.P. and son of Parker, who
played professionally in the Red Sox farm system, Ross had been
considered a solid college prospect but didn’t have a lot of
professional interest going into the spring. He has shown more raw
power than he had before and improved his speed, grading now as a
solid-average runner. His swing is fluid with leverage, and he has
average bat speed. He’s probably going to wind up at second base
because his arm and range won’t play at shortstop, but as an
offensive-minded player in the mold of Aaron Hill, Wilson might be
drafted as high as the third round.

A year ago, D.J. Jones
was near the top of most follow lists in the state, but he had a
forgettable summer with the Miami Bombers travel team last year and now
is a decent bet to honor his commitment to Auburn. Jones, 19, has a
level swing with fringe-average bat speed. He has a good
approach and can spray line drives to all fields, though his plate
discipline and pitch recognition hindered him against more advanced
pitching last summer. He rediscovered some of the pop in his bat that
helped him set the state’s record for career triples, and while there
was not a consensus on his projection as a prospect, at least a few
teams were considering drafting him in the fifth- to eighth-round
range, depending on his signability. He’s a well-above-average runner
who has passable defensive skills in the outfield.

Barren Bama

wasn’t a good year for Alabama and Auburn. After advancing to
super-regionals last year, the Crimson Tide finished .500 in the
Southeastern Conference and were on the bubble for NCAA regional play.
Auburn, meanwhile, finished dead last in the SEC with a 10-20 mark and
didn’t even qualify for the conference tournament. Neither school has
much to offer in the way of draft-eligible talent, either.

Outside of Auburn’s John Donaldson, outfielders Mike Bianucci and Bruce Edwards
are the only Tigers expected to be drafted in the first 10 rounds.
Bianucci has one obvious plus tool–raw power–though his swing
mechanics and approach might make it tough for him to tap into it. He
has a chiseled body and strong forearms and wrists, but he lacks
looseness in his swing and muscles balls out of the park rather than
releasing the barrel with his hands. Bianucci will turn around live
fastballs, but has a grooved swing and struggles to make contact with
breaking balls and pitches above his hands. He’s a slightly
below-average runner with a below-average arm, meaning he fits best in
left field as a professional. He’s pegged for the fourth or fifth round.

boosted his stock as a senior by making better contact and showing
lively actions in center field. His 60 speed (on the 20-80 scale) is
his lone plus tool, but he has a short swing with a knack for using the
whole field and creating havoc on the basepaths. He has
well-below-average power and a below-average arm, and unlike Alabama’s Emeel Salem,
doesn’t have a history of performance. His intangibles and leadoff
potential are enough to get him drafted in the top 10 rounds.

a two-time all-SEC selection, had an outstanding junior season last
year, but he is as serious about his schoolwork as he is baseball and
opted to return to campus after being drafted by the Orioles in the
10th round in 2006. He led Tide regulars in batting (.357), on-base
percentage (.442), stolen bases (23) and walks (30) while starting in
every game for the second year in a row. He graduated with a 3.9 GPA in
management and Spanish and has been a mainstay on academic honor rolls
throughout his career. He’s a throwback player who provides energy and
emotion to his team. His best tools are above-average speed and
defensive ability in center field. Salem makes consistent contact and
can drive balls from gap to gap, but ultimately he probably won’t have
enough offensive upside to profile as an everyday major leaguer. A bevy
of teams would love to give him the opportunity, however, and he should
be drafted once again near the 10th round, or perhaps earlier if a team
is looking for a quality senior sign.

South Alabama slugger Jeff Cunningham
might be taken just ahead of Edwards and Salem because of his plus raw
power. Like former South Alabama outfielder Adam Lind, Cunningham is
from Indiana and has flourished this spring, pounding 22 home runs to
the tune of a .754 slugging percentage. He’s a fair athlete who plays
first base now and might have much more value if he can handle a corner
outfield position. His swing isn’t without its holes, and he swings and
misses often.

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, righthander Josh Dew
has always had the physical attributes of a pitching prospect, but he
had been used primarily as a hitter prior to his senior season at Troy.
Dew has dealt his way in to the top 10 rounds thanks to a 90-92 mph
fastball that has plus sink. He works from a low-three-quarters arm
slot that creates deception, especially against righthanded hitters.
His sweepy slider is below-average and doesn’t have enough depth or
bite to serve as a legitimate second offering in pro ball. He’s a
strike thrower and has an aggressive approach, which helped him rack up
90 strikeouts in 60 innings.

The state’s top junior-college prospect is 5-foot-11 righthander Craig Kimbrell,
a freshman at Wallace State (Ala.) Community College. He has a quick
arm and a relatively clean delivery that has helped his fastball
velocity climb into the 91-93 mph range. Like Dew, Kimbrell’s ceiling
is modest because of his lack of a true breaking ball. He throws a
sweepy slider that lacks depth, and relies primarily on arm strength to
overpower hitters.