MARIANNA, FL- With thirty of our pre-season Top-250 JUCO prospects at the Rahal-Miller JUCO National Tournament, it was truly a bonanza for me to scout. But of that thirty, twenty of them were pitchers and 19 had made appearances over the weekend.
In addition, several other pitchers appeared who have also drawn pro interest and will likely make future top prospect lists.
I’ve gone ahead and listed whom I grade out as the top-ten prospects among the pitchers who appeared in Marianna. The junior college teams represented are Walters State, Southern Nevada, San Jacinto (Tx.), St. Petersburg, and host Chipola.
As with all prospects lists, keep in mind that this is opinion-based. In speaking to scouts about players, I found quite a variety of differing views. Below is my own.
TOP-TEN PITCHING PROSPECTS AT RAHAL-MILLER JUCO TOURNAMENT
1. Jacob Cowan, RHP, San Jacinto (Soph.)
Cowan doesn’t have the present-day stuff or velocity (86-88 MPH) of some other pitchers on this list, but he has the best delivery and arm-action. Cowan projects well on his 6-1, 175 frame and is sure to throw harder as he physically matures. He needs to improve strength in his lower-half to achieve his potential. Cowan already throws a plus change-up, while his slider edges his curveball as a future average pitch. The package is there to become a solid big league starter with continued physical development. Cowan was a 14th-round pick out of high school by the Red Sox and has signed with the University of Texas for 2010.
2. David Rollins, LHP, San Jacinto (Fresh.)
San Jac gets the 1-2 spots as the 5-11, 170 Rollins displayed a promising three-pitch arsenal and an athletic, repeatable delivery. Rollins threw 86-90 MPH with a downward biting slider and fading change-up that were both average major league pitches at times. His fastball lacks MLB-type movement coming out of his over-the-top slot and he’ll have to locate it particularly well since he doesn’t project as a mid-90s guy. Rollins was a 19th-round pick by the Dodgers last year out of high school.
3. Jack Wagoner, RHP, St. Petersburg (Soph.)
Wagoner is a good projection guy with a large frame at 6-3, 210 that should become 225+ by the time he’s done filling out. Wagoner’s delivery makes very good use of his core and lower-half. The arm-action itself is long and not particularly smooth, but there is (in my opinion) little strain because of his powerful driving muscles. Wagoner threw 88-92 MPH and flashed both a curve and a change-up that have the potential to become solid-average MLB offerings. He also fiddles with a cutter that will help him against lefthanded hitters in pro ball. Wagoner showed the ability to amp up for strike three and a fair amount of pitchability and smarts. Wagoner is signed with Florida Gulf Coast University in nearby Fort Myers.
4. Ryan Weber, RHP, St. Petersburg (Fresh.)
Weber is the best pitcher on this list, period. He’s the one you give the ball to today because he’s the most advanced and he has plus command of an average major league curveball. Weber’s change-up is almost as good and his fastball has lively two-seam action. Though he only threw 85-87 MPH this weekend, Weber carved up Southern Nevada’s lineup. His high-effort delivery and lack of brute size (small-framed 6-0, 165) raise concerns about his durability for a pro career. Weber turned down a commitment to Florida to attend St. Pete and was also drafted in the 12th round by the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school last year.
5. Zac Fuesser, LHP, Walters State (Fresh.)
Fuesser showed very good pitchability in his start against Southern Nevada. The lanky 6-1, 170 lefty worked the corners with an 87-90 MPH fastball. Though it was often straight, good location made it effective and Fuesser also had command of his curveball. He still needs work to make his change-up a usable big league pitch and none of his offerings project as plus, but Fuesser’s know-how gives him a chance. His delivery is well-repeated and his arm-action is fine. Fuesser was a 19th-round pick by the Braves out of high school last year.
6. David Buchanan, RHP, Chipola (Soph.)
Buchanan had the best fastball on the list in terms of both velocity and movement, but the worst for command. Buchanan gets heavy action on his heater and was living in the 90-92 MPH range, but he gets too much of the plate. His curveball was an inconsistent big breaker at 75-80 MPH that has a chance to become average. Buchanan showed good feel for a splitter which I anticipate to be his knockout punch at the next level. There’s a lot of effort and extra movement in his delivery that makes it very difficult to repeat, so it remains to be seen whether he develops the command necessary to pitch in the big leagues. The bullpen would be an intriguing possibility.
7. Will Scott, RHP, Walters State (Fresh.)
Scott is only 6-0, 185, but has athletic proportions with strong legs and long arms. He flirted with low-90s velocity and the ability to spin both a slider and a curve, but Scott was inconsistent and all over the place with his stuff. Scott has the smooth arm-action and athletic delivery for great improvement, and his delivery has natural deception. There’s a lot of work ahead, but big league potential to work with. Scott was drafted last year out of high school in the 32nd round by the Colorado Rockies.
8. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Chipola (Soph.)
The lanky 6-2, 175 lefty is sure to get stronger and likely to throw with average velocity in the future (86-88 MPH this weekend). He’s also flashed an average curveball and change-up at times, but has a ways to go for consistency and command of those pitches. Corbin’s head moves a lot in his delivery and he’s not particularly smooth. The arm-action works okay despite a high hand-glove separation.
9. Austin Wright, LHP, Chipola (Fresh.)
Wright may be more intriguing as a hitting prospect, but the 6-3, 225 lefty threw consistently in the high-80s this weekend with the makings of a quality straight change. There isn’t much downward bite on his curveball despite an over-the-top slot and he’ll have to come up with some kind of #2 to pitch at the highest levels. His delivery, size, and adequate arm-action make him a potential high-inning workhorse. Wright was a 23rd round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of high school last year.
10. Connor Hoehn, RHP, St. Petersburg (Soph.)
Hoehn is a strong-bodied 6-2, 200, who showed solid-average 89-93 MPH velocity for almost his entire start. His fastball command was also much better from the week before. The question will be his peripheral pitches; Hoehn’s curveball and change were not sharp. There’s some drift in his delivery and he doesn’t employ his lower-half a whole lot. Hoehn was a 21st round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers out of high school in 2007.
HONORABLE MENTIONS in alphabetical order: Chad Bell (LHP, Walters State), Trevor Clausen (RHP, Southern Nevada), Tyler Hanks (RHP, Southern Nevada), Jordan Lucas (RHP, Chipola), Kenny McDowell (RHP, Southern Nevada), Trent Rothlin (RHP, Walters State), and Jason Townsend (RHP, Chipola).