2010 MLB Draft Preview: Infielders
After it was well-received last year, we return to a position by position format for our scouting reports. This week we break them up by position and next week we'll present the Top 200 list, which will be more accurate because we've had time to further report and sort through what looks to be a very complex draft.
The classification system is relatively straightforward, and the players who qualified for writeups are those who we think have the talent to go in the first two rounds. We also give you a thumbnail assessment of how the talent looks at each position this year.
Our rankings and scouting reports are based on conversations with major league front-office personnel, scouts, and college and high school coaches in the weeks leading up to the draft. The scouting reports were written by Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, Conor Glassey, John Manuel and David Perkin.
It's no 2008, when seven first baseman (including current big leaguers Ike Davis and Justin Smoak) were drafted in the first round. This year, no first baseman appeared to be in that territory, a telling sign of the overall weakness of the 2010 class of hitters.
1. Christian Yelich
Westlake HS, Westlake Village, Calif.
Yelich first gained widespread scouting attention in the summer of 2008, when he put on an eye-opening batting practice display with wood bats at a Major League Scouting Bureau showcase at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. Bryce Harper overshadowed Yelich that evening, driving several balls off the batter's eye or into the parking lot, but Yelics held his own and has produced other highlights since then, such as the long, opposite-field homer he hit in 2009 off Tyler Skaggs, an Angels supplemental first-rounder last year. Tall (6-foot-3), angular and projectable and possessing a sweet lefthanded swing, Yelich is far more athletic than the usual lumbering first-base prospect, with above-average speed. He consistently runs a 6.75-second 60-yard dash in showcase events, and shows both range and a nifty glove around the bag. That kind of athleticism usually signals a position change, but Yelich has a below-average throwing arm that limits him to first. A Miami recruit, Yelich does not project to have the profile power organizations prefer in a first baseman, but he should develop into an above-average hitter with fringe-average power, along the lines of a James Loney or Casey Kotchman.
Morris spurned the Red Sox as a second-round pick in 2007, making him the highest unsigned high school draft pick to attend college that year. He was a first-team Freshman All-American in 2008 but stumbled as a sophomore, hitting just .282 and striking out 50 times in 50 games. Morris responded by getting in the best shape of his life, and this time the cliche was actually true: He lost 30 pounds and stunned scouts when he posted a 6.75-second 60-yard time on scout day in the fall. His leaner 6-foot-2, 220-pound body has allowed Morris to improve his bat speed, as he can hit velocity better than he used to, and has made his actions and swing looser. While he's still a below-average defender (though with a solid arm), he's no longer a total liability at first base, and he's a solid-average runner under way. Morris doesn't have explosive power and may have more pure hitting ability than raw juice, with both grading out as average or a tick above. He's likely to go out in the same range as he did out of high school.
3. Mark Canha, California
4. Tyler Kuresa, Oakmont HS, Roseville, Calif.
5. Aaron Senne, Missouri
As usual, it's hard to find legitimate major league prospects who play second base in high school or college. Most big league second basemen, from Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia to Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips (and many more in between), played shortstop as amateurs and moved to second as pros. Even Kolbrin Vitek, this year's top second-base prospect, probably will not have the defensive chops to stay in the middle of the infield.
1. Kolbrin Vitek
Vitek has pitched in Ball State's weekend rotation since he was a freshman, and has been a regular in the Cardinals' lineup, first as a DH, then as a third baseman and now as second baseman. Yet his professional future is more likely as an outfielder. In a draft short on premium college hitters, Vitek is one of the best. He ranked as the top prospect in the Great Lakes League last summer, batting .400 and winning the league's first triple crown. A 6-foot-3, 195-pound righthanded hitter, he's a more physical version of former Notre Dame outfielder A.J. Pollock, the 17th overall pick a year ago of the Diamondbacks. Vitek could go in the same range, and the Padres, who own the No. 9 choice, have shown interest in him. With quick hands and a sound approach, he consistently barrels balls and projects as an above-average hitter with average to plus power. On the 20-80 scouting scale, his speed rates as a 55 out of the box and 60-65 under way, leading to hope that he can play center field. If not, he has enough bat to carry him as a right fielder. Vitek lacks the hands and actions to play the infield in pro ball. He's also a legitimate prospect as a pitcher, throwing 88-92 mph from a low three-quarters arm slot and locating multiple pitches for strikes.
2. Chris Bisson, Kentucky
3. Brian Guinn, California
4. Phil Gosselin, Virginia
5. Joe Terry, Cerritos (Calif.) JC
With two likely first-round picks, the 2010 hot corner class is stronger than last year's group. Zack Cox shined in the Cape Cod League and has kept hitting at Arkansas this spring, though he's not in the class of recent draft third sackers such as Pedro Alvarez (2008) and Evan Longoria (2006). Most of the high school players listed here are playing shortstop now and eventually will have to move down the defensive spectrum.
1. Zack Cox
Cox is the best pure hitter and top sophomore-eligible player in the draft. He hit just .266 as a freshman on Arkansas' College World Series team a year ago, but improved as the season went on and adjusted his pull-happy approach when he arrived in the Cape Cod League. He hit .344 with wood bats and ranked as the top position prospect in the summer circuit, setting the stage for a breakout spring in which he was hitting .446/.532/.631 through mid-May. Cox has very good hands, a short, lefty stroke and nice command of the strike zone. He has an uncanny ability to hit the ball with authority to the opposite field. There's some debate as to how much power he'll have in the major leagues, but he has the bat speed to do damage once he adds more loft to his swing. He has plenty of strength, as evidenced by a titanic shot he blasted off the top of a 90-foot-tall scoreboard at the 2009 Southeastern Conference tournament. Six feet and 215 pounds, Cox is a decent athlete with fringy speed and range at third base. Not all scouts are sold on his defensive ability. He does have a strong arm—he threw in the low 90s as a reliever a year ago—and will put in the work to improve his reactions at third base. He also has seen time at second base, and one scout said his actions looked better there, but his athleticism is more suited for the hot corner. Cox turned down an $800,000 offer as a Dodgers 20th-round pick out of high school, and he's in line to make two or three times as much as a top 10 choice this June.
2. Nick Castellanos
Archbishop McCarthy HS, Southwest Ranches, Fla.
Castellanos was already a prospect before last year's Under Armour game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Then he hit four doubles on national television against good competition, and suddenly Castellanos was a "famous guy," a term scouts use for heavily scouted players. He also hit .327 for the 18U USA Baseball team that won a gold medal at the Pan American Junior Championship in Venezuela. He has more than held up under the scrutiny, and in fact has thrived in it, having a stellar senior season. A shortstop in high school, Castellanos projects to move to third as a pro and has the agility and arm strength to play the hot corner. He also should have the bat. He's one of the better hitters in the prep class, thanks to a strong swing featuring good extension and natural loft. He has used the whole field more this year and is a solid athlete with good aptitude. Some scouts question his ability to hit breaking balls, saying they've seen too much swing-and-miss this year to project him as a plus hitter, and have more confidence in his future power. Others debate whether Castellanos has true impact tools or is closer to solid-average. He is an average runner and doesn't have a glaring weakness.
3. Garin Cecchini
Barbe HS, Lake Charles, La.
Cecchini established himself as one of the top prep hitters in the 2010 draft class when he led the U.S. 18U national team—which also featured Bryce Harper—in slugging (.708) and on-base percentage (.529) en route to its first-ever gold medal at the Pan American Junior Championship last summer in Venezuela. He might have hit his way into the first round this spring, but he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and required reconstructive surgery in mid-May. It was his second operation under the knife of Dr. James Andrews, who performed rotator-cuff surgery on him when Cecchini was 12. A 6-foot-3, 195-pounder, he has a fluid lefthanded stroke and good pull power. The knee injury isn't a long-term concern, because his fringe-average speed isn't a big part of his game and he already was expected to move from shortstop to third base at the next level. His soft hands and strong arm will play well at the hot corner. He's a baseball rat, no surprise considering his father Glenn is the head coach at perennial Louisiana power Barbe High. His mother Raissa is an assistant coach at Barbe, and his younger brother Gavin is a top infield prospect for the 2012 draft. Though he missed most of the season, it may take first-round money to lure Cecchini away from a Louisiana State commitment. He has enough offensive potential and track record to get that payday, and he isn't expected to make it to the second round.
4. Kris Bryant
Bonanza HS, Las Vegas
Bryant entered the summer with lofty expectations, but he often looked overmatched at the plate during the showcase circuit last summer. When he's on, he's a treat to watch. He has a lean, 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame and light-tower power that draws comparisons to a young Troy Glaus. The power, however, mostly shows up during batting practice or when he has a metal bat in his hands. There are a lot of moving parts to his swing and he has trouble barreling balls up with wood, so how much usable power he ends up having is a big question. He has a long, loopy swing and he never changes his approach when he's struggling. He's athletic for a big guy and may be able to handle third base. He has the arm for it, and some scouts said they wouldn't be shocked if he eventually ended up on the mound. Some scouts love Bryant's power enough to take him in the back half of the first round, while others turned him in as a token gesture and have little interest in him—especially for the price it will take to lure him away from his San Diego commitment.
Fullerton (Calif.) Union HS
Ficociello got off to a slow start to the showcase circuit last summer before breaking out with a five-hit performance during the Area Code Games in Long Beach. He drew more attention with a long, wood-bat home run off a 90 mph Cody Buckel fastball in the Jesse Flores Memorial All-Star game in November at Dedeaux Field in Los Angeles. A switch-hitter, Ficociello has a level swing from the right side, producing more of a line-drive effect, and a sweeping uppercut from the left, producing more fly-ball power. He does an excellent job of accelerating the bat head at contact, giving him unusual power for a 6-foot-3, 170-pounder. Ficociello has experienced an uneven 2010 season overall, though. He began in blazing fashion, belting four homers in his club's first six games before being suspended for venturing too far out of his dugout to celebrate a teammate's home run. He slumped badly afterward but rebounded in April with an enormous home run during a Lions Tournament game. He has intriguing raw power and offensive potential, which comes in handy considering his below-average speed (7.2 seconds over 60 yards) will prompt a move to third base as a pro. Defensively, Ficociello has an average arm and admirable fielding skills. He frustrates scouts with his lack of concentration in the field, which causes him to make silly errors that could be easily eliminated. However, they may be willing to put up with it because Ficociello's bat has the potential of becoming extraordinary. One observer noted his 400-foot smash at the Flores game and wondered, "When he is 25 years old and 20 pounds heavier, where would that ball have gone?"
6. Rob Segedin, Tulane
7. Marcus Littlewood, Pine View HS, St. George, Utah
8. Mike Olt, Connecticut
9. Joe Leonard, Pittsburgh
10. Chad Lewis, Marina HS, Huntington Beach, Calif.
11. Tony Thompson, Kansas
12. Christopher Hawkins, North Gwinnett HS, Suwanee, Ga.
13. Kellen Sweeney, Jefferson HS, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
14. Jacoby Jones, Richton (Miss.) HS
15. Stephen Yarrow, San Francisco
True shortstops are hard to find, but Manny Machado is the rare prospect who both has bat potential and the tools to stay at shortstop. However, none of the college players expected to be drafted highly are given more than a 50-50 shot at sticking at the position.
1. Manny Machado
Brito Private HS, Hialeah, Fla.
Machado committed early to Florida International, but the Golden Panthers have long since determined he's not headed for campus. Instead he could be headed for the first five picks. He leapt into first-round consideration at the start of the 2009 summer showcase season and never stopped hitting or fielding, helping lead USA Baseball's 18U team to a gold medal in Venezuela in the Pan American Junior Championship. He's of Dominican descent and is a tall, lanky shortstop in South Florida, attracting inevitable Alex Rodriguez comparisons. Machado is skinny at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds but surprisingly strong and has a swing that produces hard contact. He's familiar with wood bats and has shown a knack for centering the ball on the barrel. Scouts project him to hit for average future power, with a chance to be a .300 hitter. Defensively, Machado will remain at shortstop as a pro and has a chance to be an above-average defender. He's smooth, makes all the routine plays and has a plus arm that allows him to make the play in the hole. Machado's weakest tool might be his speed, though he's an average runner. There are few chinks in his armor, and the Boras Corp. client is in play with single-digit picks.
2. Christian Colon
Cal State Fullerton
As a junior at Anaheim's Canyon High, Colon played second base and formed a double-play combo with Grant Green, the 13th overall selection in last year 's draft by the Athletics out of Southern California. Colon was a 10th-round pick of the Padres 2007. Disappointed that he was not chosen earlier, he went off to play at Cal State Fullerton, where the 6-foot, 200-pounder has emerged as one of the nation's premier middle infielders. Colon was enjoying a brilliant summer in 2009 when he broke his leg when sliding in a game against Canada. Chosen as Team USA's captain, Colon still earned Summer College Player of the Year honors, but the injury seemed to contribute to a slow start to his 2010 season. A three-homer game against Washington in late March seemed to revive his bat, though, and his numbers were back in familiar territory. One of the nation's better hitters, Colon uses a distinct upper-cut in his swing, looking to lift and drive the ball. That approach is not typical for a smaller middle infielder, but Colon shows terrific bat speed as his barrel connects with the ball. He also is patient and makes consistent contact; despite his power approach, he's one of the toughest players to strike out in Division I thanks to excellent barrel awareness. He's a skilled hitter who hits behind runners, bunts and executes the hit-and-runs effectively. Defensively, Colon's range is limited, and his speed and arm are below-average for a shortstop. He does exhibit fluid and quick fielding actions and his playmaking ability is outstanding. His frame offers little room for projection, and offensively he can be streaky. For scouts who focus on what he can do, his tremendous hands and footwork, as well as his bat control, make him a future big league regular, best suited as an offensive second baseman.
3. Yordy Cabrera
Lakeland (Fla.) HS
The Yordy Cabrera story has several themes that all scouts are familiar with. He moved to the U.S. at age 14 from the Dominican Republic and is already 19. In other words, he's a prep senior who's two years older than junior-college freshman Bryce Harper. Cabrera, whose father Basilio is a former player and the Tigers' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League manager, has spent plenty of time around pro clubhouses and wood bats, and has two plus-plus tools. He has excellent raw power and one of the draft's strongest arms for an infielder, and he has the hands, average speed and actions to at least begin his pro career as a shortstop. Most believe he'll have to move to third base eventually because he's already 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, but should be able to stay in the dirt. As a pitcher, he has launched his fastball into the low to mid-90s, and his arm profiles for third or right field if he has to move. His value will depend on his bat, which remains raw and inconsistent despite his bloodlines. Cabrera kills mistakes, especially hanging breaking balls, but at times has trouble gearing up to velocity. He was unlikely to last past the supplemental round, and if his bat doesn't develop he could move to the mound.
4. Jedd Gyorko
Gyorko is on team's draft boards for one reason: his bat. His position on those boards comes down to where teams think he'll play. A shortstop for the Mountaineers, no one is giving him a chance to stay there as a pro. He's labeled as a bad-body guy at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds and will have to work hard to keep himself in shape. His arm is average and he gets mixed reviews on his infield actions. Some think he can play second base, while others say the range will be too short. Third base is an option, but he's not a big power guy, as it grades out as an average tool. He's an above-average hitter, though, thanks to a good, balanced approach at the plate, a good feel for the strike zone and an ability to hit to all fields. He hit .409 and .421 with 16 home runs in his first two seasons at West Virginia. Through 195 at-bats in 2010, he was hitting .369/.462/.718 with 15 home runs, 36 walks and just 17 strikeouts. The consensus is that the bat is easy to believe in and in a draft short on college hitters, Gyorko doesn't figure to be available when the second round begins.
5. Derek Dietrich
Dietrich is one of three unsigned 2007 Astros draft picks—Arkansas' Brett Eibner and Texas Tech's Chad Bettis are the others—who figure to go in the first two rounds this year. Dietrich was the highest pick, a third-rounder, and could still fall to that round despite having his best college season. He's a difficult player for scouts to judge because he doesn't fit an obvious pro profile. His lefthanded bat brings value, as do his strong arm and developing power, and he tied his career high with 14 homers this spring. He plays hard and has been a serviceable college shortstop defensively. Scouts believe he lacks the footwork or athletic ability in his 6-foot-1, 196-pound frame to stay at short, though, and wonder if his footwork can improve enough for him to play at second. Most doubt that and believe third base is his best fit with the glove, and he may not produce enough power to profile as a regular there. He also could prove to be a versatile big leaguer in the mold of Geoff Blum or Scott Spiezio, who both had the advantage of switch-hitting.
6. Tony Wolters
Rancho Buena Vista HS, Vista, Calif.
Wolters, a San Diego recruit, was the MVP of the 2009 Aflac All-American game at Petco Park in San Diego, an impressive accomplishment considering the field was filled with elite prospects such as Jameson Taillon and Bryce Harper. Undersized (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) for any position on the field except the middle infield, Wolters almost certainly will shift to second base as a pro. He is a sensational defensive player, displaying remarkable playmaking ability, fluid actions and quick hands. Wolters has enough arm for shortstop, but his below-average speed and range make him a better fit on the right side of the infield. He's smart with strong leadership qualities and baseball instincts. Wolters' batting stance and hitting style are unique. He begins with the bat in a straight up and down posture, his hands placed near his right hip. His wide, spread-out stance in his lower half gives Wolters a bit of a Gateway Arch look. As a pitch approaches, Wolters moves his hands into a launch position and then lets the bat fly, using a pronounced sweeping upper-cut. At times, he appears to release his top hand off the bat a fraction too quickly, in effect swinging with one hand. While his swing and set-up are not traditional, it is hard to quibble with the results. He is a patient and savvy hitter, showing a knack for extending pitch counts as he waits for the ball he wants to attack. Wolters projects as an average to slightly above-average hitter with slightly below-average power.
7. Matt Lipka
McKinney (Texas) HS
McKinney quarterback/righthander Zach Lee may continue to play two sports at Louisiana State, but his top wide receiver will focus on baseball, either in pro ball or at Alabama. A two-time 4-A all-state wide receiver in Texas, Lipka caught 22 touchdown passes from Lee last fall. He's one of the fastest prospects in the draft, capable of running the 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds. He's a quick-twitch athlete with strength in his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame. A righthanded hitter, he has strong hands and bat speed, though he gets jammed more than he should. He employs a line-drive stroke but has a chance for at least average power. Lipka has the athleticism and arm strength to play shortstop, but his hands and actions are questionable. He'll get the opportunity to play shortstop as a pro, and he also profiles well as a center fielder. While Lee is considered one of the draft's most unsignable players, Lipka should sign if he goes in the first three rounds as expected.
8. Andrelton Simmons, Western Oklahoma State JC
9. Devin Lohman, Long Beach State
10. Sean Coyle, Germantown Academy, Fort Washington, Pa.
11. Rick Hague, Rice
12. Niko Goodrum, Fayette County HS, Fayetteville, Ga.
13. Zach Alvord, South Forsyth HS, Cumming, Ga.
14. Cito Culver, Irondequoit HS, Rochester, N.Y.
15. Connor Narron, Aycock HS, Goldsboro, N.C.