Midseason Top 50 Prospects
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2005 Draft Scouting Reports: Virginia
By Will Kimmey
(National ranking in parentheses)
1. JUSTIN UPTON, ss (National Rank: 1)
School: Great Bridge HS.
Hometown: Chesapeake, Va.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 187. Birthdate: 8-25-87
College Commitment: North Carolina State.
Scouting Report: Upton stands as the favorite to become the draft's first overall pick, which would trump his brother B.J., whom the Devil Rays selected second in 2002. The sibling rivalry doesn't stop there. Justin has proven equally athletic and more advanced offensively than B.J. at the same age, demonstrating excellent patience at the plate and a quick stroke. Upton's well-defined and muscular upper body give a hint to his plus power potential, which he accompanies with equal amounts of speed. His 6.23-second time in the 60-yard dash at a Perfect Game showcase last year rates as the quickest in the scouting service's history. Upton moves well defensively and shows clean actions at shortstop, but again follows in his brother's footsteps because he has trouble harnessing the plus arm strength that has allowed him to hit 94 mph off the mound. The throwing errors come from not maintaining consistent mechanics, a problem that fades when Upton long tosses or makes throws from the outfield. This has led some scouts to profile him as a center fielder, though Upton would prefer to remain at shortstop. He actually played third base late in his senior season, making all the plays there after switching positions with a teammate who struggled to make the long throws from the hot corner. Wherever Upton lands defensively, teams will buy the bat. His character and work ethic often go under-reported, as people tend to focus on the five-tool skills. He's handled the expectations of being tagged 2005's top prospect since his freshman year of high school with aplomb, routinely playing in front of scores of scouts and answering countless questions from scouts and media alike. He continues to back up the hype, with his performance at the World Junior Championship in September as a prime example. He led Team USA in runs (eight), hits (10), triples (four), total bases (21) and slugging (.875).
2. RYAN ZIMMERMAN, 3b (National Rank: 9)
3. BRANDON SNYDER, c/ss (National Rank: 28)
4. JUSTIN BRISTOW, rhp/ss (National Rank: 43)
5. EVAN FREDERICKSON, lhp (National Rank: 131)
6. DEXTER CARTER, rhp (National Rank: 147)
7. DANIEL HUDSON, rhp (National Rank: 189)
OTHERS TO WATCH
(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in Virginia)
The resurgent UVa program should deliver plenty of impact, starting with Zimmerman in the first round. Virginia's entire weekend rotation could get drafted. Junior RHP Matt Avery's (13) 5-5, 4.52 record is the third-best of the staff, but his 88-89 mph fastball that has touched the low 90s puts him atop the prospect list. He's mature, shows a good feel for pitching and offers projection with a 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame and long arms. His secondary pitches are soft--especially his breaking ball--and mechanically, a stiff front leg moves his pitches up in the zone.
Fifth-year senior RHP Jeff Kamrath (18) emerged as the team's best pitcher. The Indians controlled his rights after spending a 36th-round choice on him last year, but Virginia's NCAA regional berth means he'll be back in the draft because he couldn't sign before the closed period. Kamrath missed 2004 after Tommy John surgery, and his velocity has been in the mid-80s most of the year. He succeeds by throwing four pitches for strikes, and did that enough to win 10 games and first-team all-ACC honors in 2005. His grandfather was an NCAA tennis champion at Texas.
LHP Matt Ballard (22) also missed the 2004 season because of Tommy John surgery, and his velocity has not yet returned. He sat in the 83-84 mph range as a redshirt junior and will probably return for his senior year to show he can make effective use of his command, polish and ability to move the ball around the strike zone.
Virginia didn't mine the in-state prep talent too heavily, signing only LHP Jacob Thompson (9), but the 6-foot-6 athlete could emerge as a first-rounder in a few years. His fastball reaches the low 90s, but he works mostly in the upper 80s and mixes in a curveball that's a true 12-to-6 hammer at times. He also throws a slider and changeup. He missed four weeks of the season with a strained ligament in his left ankle after landing awkwardly while tagging a base. Thompson's commitment to the Cavaliers is strong; word was that he wanted nearly $1 million to sign. He doesn't yet merit that kind of bonus.
Tigers Grab Preps By The Tail
RHP Will Inman (16), Thompson's teammate at Tunstall High in Danville, actually has enjoyed a more decorated prep career. He broke the state's career strikeout record, passing 500 as a senior. His stocky build at 6 feet, 205 pounds doesn't portend the same projection scouts as Thompson, and many stopped following him because he failed to break 90 mph at the 2004 Commonwealth Games and his delivery showed some effort. That could be a mistake, because Inman hit 90-92 mph regularly as a senior, with his coach saying he might have been worn down last summer following a long postseason run. Inman's curveball isnít a true power pitch, but generates a lot of swings and misses. He also throws a splitter and a changeup, and will use any of the four offerings in any count.
Inman committed to Auburn, which snagged a nice trio of Virginians, including Richmond's Justin Bristow and Woodson SS Mike Biannuci (15). Biannuci's father owns a gym, and his chiseled 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame serves as a nice advertisement for it. Some say his strength has left his swing and other movements a bit stiff, but there's no questioning the power he offers. He's athletic enough that he could play shortstop or more likely third base at the college level, but could move to left field later. His arm is average.
William & Mary OF Chris Rahl (14) hit 20 home runs and stole 42 bases as a sophomore, showcasing a power-speed combination that earned All-America honors and put him in position to get drafted in the first five rounds. While he hit 12 homers, slugged .554 and stolen 21 bases (in 30 tries) as a junior, Rahl's .297 average and 27-37 walk-strikeout ratio show how he's tried to do too much in his draft year. Opponents have filled his plate appearances with offspeed pitches, and he has struggled against breaking balls while chasing the rare fastballs he sees--often out of the zone. Still, Rahl's plus speed should put him in the first 10 rounds, and history says he will hit better if he stops trying to impress with his power. A high school second baseman, Rahl doesnít show true outfield instincts, but he works hard and is helped by his speed and plus arm. He could play center field, but likely settles into a corner.
Rahl's teammate, senior 2B Will Rhymes (41), enjoyed an excellent senior year, setting the table with team-bests in average (.413), on base-percentage (.451) and runs (58) while producing a 16-15 walk-strikeout ratio. Neither his tools nor his stature (5-foot-9, 155 pounds) overwhelm, but Rhymes plays hard and could prove a solid organizational player. Richmond OF/2B Ben Zeskind (38) is essentially a bigger version of Rhymes, with a legit bat from both sides of the plate, a competitive, smart approach the game and speed that's average to a tick above. His arm isn't great for center field.
Virginia Commonwealth always has procured solid local talent from Richmond and could have its next standout in Hermitage High RHP Scott Taylor (8). The 6-foot-4 athlete struck out 16 in a 1-0 loss to Justin Bristow and Godwin, and one scout said that while Bristow's polish reminded him of a luxury car, Taylor's bite-your-head-off mentality and raw strength made for a nice SUV comparison. Taylor shows clean arm action with boring life on a 90-91 mph fastball that could jump in velocity down the road. His breaking ball looked good late in the year, but it rolls at times. His changeup might be his second pitch. Taylor also possesses a powerful bat and could emerge as a two-way player in the mold of former VCU start Jason Dubois if he went to college. Taylor should sign, however, if he goes near the fifth round.
Speaking of Dubois, his younger brother RHP Kyle Dubois (29) is a junior at Old Dominion. Being a big, physical pitcher runs in the family. His live fastball reached 90 at times, but was more often in the 86-88 range. He bounced between the rotation and a closing role, and was best when he was locating his slider. He struck out 77 batters in 72 innings.
Back to VCU's class, 6-foot-2 1B/LHP Jared Bolden (25) could also follow the Dubois path. The lanky Bolden reminds VCU coach Paul Keyes of Garret Anderson with the way he always puts the barrel of his bat on the ball. He's still raw as a pitcher, but should improve in that area with a few years in college. VCU also signed Manchester High INF Chris Jackson, the cousin of former Richmond outfielder Nic Jackson, who joined Dubois in the Cubs organization.
East Carolina also does a fine job finding players in Virginia, and this year landed a pair of 6-foot-4 athletes who could end up on campus after looking like top five round talents over the summer. Chesapeake RHP Matt Olson (12) is country strong with a loose arm and fires fastballs in the 90-92 mph range, but the pitch is fairly straight and his delivery features considerable effort. He needs to develop his slow, slurvy curveball into a better pitch and throw it more. He throws the fastball nearly all the time now.
Woodbridge RHP Ryan Wood (17) also features effort to his delivery and a slurvy breaker. His ceiling could be higher than Olson's once he bulks up from 160 pounds and becomes more consistent in his command. His changeup gives him one of the best complements of secondary pitches in this group of prep arms, but his head-snapping mechanics don't allow him to make the most of it. He could emerge as a solid college player, and might develop into an even better shortstop than pitcher.
Plenty Of Depth
RHP Andrew Shawler (10) always displayed good arm strength as a catcher and then after moving to the mound. He has shown a low-90s fastball, but works comfortably in the upper 80s with a slider that has spun as hard as 81-83 mph. His wiry 6-foot-2 frame and relative newness to pitching means he could blossom at Old Dominion, where he might also catch at times because of his bat. Shawler is an energetic player who really enjoys playing the game.
Shawler won't get to play with RHP James Burok (19) at ODU, because the hard worker will prove an interesting senior sign for a club looking to save money in the first 10 rounds. He's cut from a similar mold as ODU's Donnie Smith, a Cardinals fourth-round pick in 2004, but doesnít possess the same arm strength. Burok showed plus stuff once he moved to a closer's role, reaching 90-93 mph with his fastball and showing a cutter at 84-85 that's a major league pitch. His curveball isnít a true 12-to-6 offering, but he might not use it much if he remains in the bullpen.
Radford RHP Cory Koliscak (20) could also prove an interesting senior sign. His sidearm delivery and 88-92 mph fastball induces all kinds of ground balls, and he struck out more than a batter per inning. Koliscak also features a decent slider. His classmate, 1B Mark Fleisher (33) displayed intriguing power, bat speed and balance as a cleanup hitter batting .378-11-46.
Virginia Tech 3B/OF Chris Stanton (27) gets to first base as fast as 3.8 seconds on drag bunts, but he doesnít necessarily hit or field well enough to make good use of that speed. He has holes in his swing, but possesses the ability to put the ball and play, making his feet a factor. Defensively, he would fit best in center field, where he could run down flies. LHP Ryan Kennedy (28) is a fourth-year junior who drew some interest as an innings eater for the Hokies. His numbers don't wow anyone, but he has a good idea how to work with his upper-80s fastball and a decent changeup. He runs into trouble when he tries to impress scouts by overthrowing
George Mason offers a trio of interesting senior signs. The Patriots coaching staff was befuddled when lefthanded-hitting 1B Chris Looze (23) went undrafted as a junior despite .340-17-81 numbers. He hit .309-13-62 and might pursue medical school if baseball disappoints him again. He's athletic at 6-1, 195 pounds, doesn't strike out much and his power plays to the alleys. OF Matt Cooksey (42) stands 5-foot-8 but possesses great speed (34 steals) and can haul in everything in center field. His .527 on-base percentage could also spark late interest. RHP Jason Mills (34) enjoyed a strong summer in the Northwoods League with his 91-93 mph fastball and mid-80s splitter, but the cold spring never allowed him to get going in 2005. He got knocked around early before improving late. He could be a summer follow.
C Michael Roberts (24) will likely honor his Virginia Military Institute commitment. He's an excellent catch-and-throw backstop with an average arm but has a ways to go with the bat. LHP John Phelps (31) comes after hitters with an 87-89 mph fastball, decent breaking ball and changeup but his squatty 5-foot-10 body lacks projection and means he'll end up at William & Mary. SS Beamer Weems (32) stands the same height, and it's the reason this gamer will spend three or four years at Baylor.