Scouting Reports: Utah

2007 MLB Draft Perhaps it was the high expectations for Oregon State recruits Tanner Robles and Garrett Nash, who together helped make scouts as excited about a Utah class of high school players as they have been in years. When both players struggled out of the gate--and especially when Robles struggled in Southern California at the Phil Nevin National Classic--it seemed like they both had a chance to go to college.
*****One for the books
****Banner year
***Solid, not spectacular
**Not up to par
*Nothing to see here
As the draft approached, however, some ardor had cooled for early riser Cole Abbott while rising again for Robles and Nash. Together, the trio heads a solid high school class in the state.

National Top 200 Prospects

1. Tanner Robles, lhp, Cottonwood HS, Salt Lake City
2. Cole Abbott, rhp, Weber HS, Ogden, Utah

Other Prospects Of Note

3. Garrett Nash, ss/of, Jordan HS, Sandy, Utah
4. Jesse Craig, rhp, Brigham Young
5. Leon Johnson, of, Brigham Young
6. James Mahler, rhp, Jordan HS, Sandy, Utah
7. Brad Devore, rhp, Utah
8. Tyson Ford, rhp, Salt Lake CC
9. B.J. Ferguson, rhp, Salt Lake CC
10. Remington Wilson, c/rhp, Cottonwood HS, Salt Lake City
11. Zach Jones, c, Jordan HS, Sandy, Utah
12. Egan Smith, lhp, Pleasant Grove (Utah) HS
13. Cameron Nelson, c/1b, Southern Utah
14. Lucas Trinnaman, rhp, Utah
15. Jay Brossman, 3b, Utah
16. Marcus Moore, rhp, Utah Valley State
17. Devin Walker, c, Pleasant Grove (Utah) HS
18. Zackary Swasey, of, Salt Lake CC

Scouting Reports

1. Tanner Robles, lhp (National rank: 112)
School: Cottonwood HS, Salt Lake City. Class: Sr.
B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 2/24/89.
Scouting Report: Robles has been the best high school pitcher in Utah for two seasons, leading Salt Lake City's Cottonwood High to a pair of state championships by going 16-0 on the mound as a sophomore and junior. He was regularly hitting 93-94 mph and emerged as an elite national prospect last summer, getting selected for the Aflac Classic. He has struggled to find the same mechanics he had before this spring, as he's landing on a stiff front leg that has caused him to elevate his stuff and lose the hard break on his curveball. Robles topped out at 92 mph in the Phil Nevin National Classic in April, and his lack of extension in his delivery also makes adding velocity in the future difficult. He still has significant assets: good size, competitiveness and good velocity for a lefthander. He could be a better version of 2005 Utah first-round prep lefty Mark Pawelek, whose career is off to a slow start in the Cubs organization. Unlike Pawelek, Robles' stock was falling as the draft approached, and if the draft round and signing bonus don't meet his preseason expectations, Robles could wind up at Oregon State with fellow Utah prep Garrett Nash.

2. Cole Abbott, rhp (National rank: 137)
School: Weber HS, Ogden, Utah. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Birthdate: --/--/--.
Scouting Report: Abbott was rivaling Tanner Robles as Utah's top prep pitcher despite having a much lower profile. Known more as a basketball player in his prep career, Abbott started getting more attention last summer when he pitched in the Area Code Games. He's athletic and loose-armed, with a projectable 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame. Quick-armed and athletic, Abbott topped out at 92 mph early in the spring, settled in around 88-91 mph with his fastball and has more velocity in him for the future, as he does it easy and repeats his delivery well. Most impressive, he's shown the ability to spin a breaking ball--at high altitude--consistently for strikes. While Abbott considers it a slider, it's a slurve right now with some depth, and with more repetition and instruction it could become a true power curveball. His commitment to Brigham Young could cloud his signability, and if he and Nevada's top prep, righty Taylor Cole, both showed up at BYU, the Cougars could be a national force in the next three seasons.

Tools To Spare

Scouts were decidedly mixed on Garrett Nash, who has the tools to have ranked among the Top 200 Prospects if you believe in the bat. The consensus, however, seemed to be that most scouts did not. Nash is one of the nation's fastest runners. He covered 60 yards in 6.27 seconds at the Area Code Games last summer and is a consistent 6.4 runner. He switch-hits to take maximum advantage of his 80 speed, but his other tools were questioned all spring. Nash plays shortstop in high school and profiles better at second base or in center field if his hands prove too hard for the infield. At the plate, Nash has raw power that has gotten him in trouble; he needs to focus more on line drives to take advantage of his speed, as his power is more gap-to-gap, particularly from the left side, where his approach is slap-and-dash. Nash reminds some of Indians farmhand Trevor Crowe, whose hit tool was much better but who like Nash has speed and looks like an infielder but had to move to the outfield. He likely will be drafted in the first three to five rounds by a team that believes in his bat.

Rivaling Nash and Abbott as the state's second-best prep, righthander James Mahler is the son of ex-big leaguer Mickey and resembles his pitching style more than that of his late uncle, ex-big leaguer (and minor league pitching coach) Rick. An Arkansas signee, Mahler has pro size at 6-foot-6 and all kinds of projection. His father's history--he threw harder later in his career and was something of a late bloomer--also factors into scouts' evaluations of the son, whose fastball topped out at 90 mph and usually sits in the 86-88 mph range. All that projection makes it hard to imagine teams spending too much money on Mahler now, but they might have to spend more in three years.

The other feature of Utah's high school class is the catchers, led by Zach Jones, the state's best prep hitter. Jones has athletic ability, runs well for a catcher and needs refinement in his catch-and-throw skills. He's not expected to be drafted due to his Stanford commitment. Rival Remington Wilson is a better catch-and-throw player now with an outstanding arm, but he lags far behind Jones offensively. The Kansas recruit could be a two-way player with the Jayhawks, as he's hit 93 mph off the mound, and most observers believe he'll end up on the mound eventually thanks to his subpar offensive skills.

A sleeper catcher in the state's college ranks, converted first baseman Cameron Nelson was the best hitter on a poor Southern Utah team that won just 11 games. He has some bat speed and a smooth righthanded swing, and he posted 1.9-second times to second base. His transfer is quick, but he's still working on his footwork and receiving behind the plate.

College Roundup

The state's top college prospects have served Mormon mission trips, with the exception of inconsistent Utah righthander Brad DeVore, a redshirt sophomore whose fastball has reached 92 mph this year even though he's battled tendinitis. When he's on, he flashes a solid-average slider to go with his fastball, and there's projection in his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame. DeVore has had maturity issues in the past and should be motivated to sign after struggling for the Utes.

His opposite number is Brigham Young's Jesse Craig, a workhorse whom the Cougars used on a five-day pro rotation late in the year, frequently starting him in midweek games. He was ruthlessly efficient, using a fastball that tops out at 93 mph but sits in the average range with good sinking life. He used it to be the Mountain West Conference pitcher of the year and nearly pitched BYU into regional play. He commands the strike zone with his fastball, which makes his secondary stuff--led by an average slider, with a fringy changeup and curveball--play up. Craig has a durable, 6-foot-3, 235-pound body and maintains his velocity, and he'll be 25 soon after two years in junior college, two years on a mission and now two years at BYU. Craig was not drafted last year so cannot sign before the draft this year, even as a fifth-year senior, and will re-enter the draft. He could move quickly thanks to his command.

BYU teammate Leon Johnson has been drafted three times, all by the Devil Rays. A 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete whose older brother Elliott is a second baseman in the Devil Rays system, Leon spent two years on a mission after two years at Eastern Arizona Junior College. His tools resemble those of his second baseman brother, though he has more speed (he's a well-above-average runner) and covers lots of ground in center field, making him an above-average defender. Offensively, he started strong despite his rust before falling off significantly in the second half; he hit just .248. His speed should get him picked again, probably in the 20th-round range.

Salt Lake Community College righthanders Tyson Ford and B.J. Ferguson don't have much else in common. Ford has a shorter, squatty body at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, and more present velocity, sitting at 88-91 mph at times with his fastball. Ferguson is much more projectable at 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, and lacks his teammate's arm speed. His fastball has gone backward since high school, when he topped out in the upper 80s, and now sits in the mid-80s. A quality split-finger fastball is  his best secondary offering. Neither was under control to a club. Utah's Lucas Trinnman has rivaled them as a prospect, topping out at 92 mph at times and showing a plus slider in the past. He's not consistent in any phase, particularly with his command, which helps explain his 0-6, 7.80 showing in 2007.