TALLAHASSEE, FL- A draft-eligible freshman? Yes, Clemson’s Chris Dwyer is a draft-eligible freshman. I found myself explaining that to Florida area scouts in Sarasota on Friday as to why I was heading up to Tallahassee on Saturday.
Dwyer certainly presents a unique situation as he could conceivably be in college for five years (if you add a redshirt) and be eligible after every one of them.
Dwyer will turn 21 on April 10th making him likely the oldest freshman in the country. But he has chance to become an early pick this June after going unsigned in the 38th round by the New York Yankees last year.
He’s also unique in his body-type. Listed at 6-2, I eye-balled him to be just a shade over 6-0 with 200 well-sculpted lbs. Dwyer’s lower-half is very strong and he’s also much thicker in his upper-half than most big league pitchers, with sloped shoulders that more befit a position player. He’s sort of built like Tampa Bay Rays ace Scott Kazmir but with a bigger frame. The San Diego Padres had a lefthanded relief pitcher named Craig Lefferts in the 1980s whose body and stuff was similar to Dwyer’s.
It was not a stellar outing for Dwyer. Though his team would go on to beat Florida State in thrilling 11-inning fashion by the score of 8-7, Dwyer was knocked out in the fifth, struggling with his control. His line for the day: 4.2 IP, 4H, 3ER, 5BB, 6K.
But it’s obvious what he brings to the table and it’s a future average fastball with a plus curve and the strong body and delivery that should allow him to throw a high-inning workload.
Dwyer threw exclusively from the stretch, which is also unique for a starter. He was consistently 88-92 MPH for most of the start with average running/sinking movement on his fastball. Dwyer was up in the zone a lot and wasn’t able to locate to the corners. His curveball was at times a plus pitch with a two-plane break in the high-70s. On this start, it was not consistent but I see the makings of a 60 major league breaking pitch in the future. Dwyer’s curve is “spikey” in nature, with a sharp downward break. His over-the-top arm-slot is ideal for getting on top of the pitch.
Dwyer also showed good arm-speed on his change-up and the potential for a 55-60 change in the future. Again, it was inconsistent and some were so straight that they turned into slow fastballs. When it works, he maintains his fastball arm-speed it drops almost like a splitter.
Dwyer’s athleticism is evident in his delivery. He uses his powerful legs and strong hips to generate torque. He doesn’t rock on his back leg quite as long as the ideal, but I think overall his mechanics are good and there isn’t a whole lot of strain on his arm. Dwyer has a long, fluid arm-action.
He has to show better command than this to be a first or second round pick in June and he has (reportedly) in his previous starts. By June, scouts will have a better idea. On pure stuff, he wouldn’t last past the second.
FIRST BASEMAN BEN PAULSEN
Clemson’s #3 hitter Ben Paulsen is a projected sandwich-to-second round pick coming into the spring. He really struggled during Saturday’s affair against Florida State, going 0-4 with a walk, a sacrifice fly, and two strikeouts.
Paulsen had a poor approach Saturday. He struck out looking at three pitches in his first at-bat, then chased a low-and-inside ball on the first pitch in his second at-bat, hitting a weak pop-up to left field. In his other at-bats, he chased balls high and swung-and-missed in his kitchen. Lefties like FSU’s Brian Bush really gave him fits. Paulsen just didn’t recognize pitches early enough.
The one pitch Paulsen did handle well was on the outer-half, which is what his opposite field sacrifice fly came off of.
His struggles surprised me not only because of his preseason rating, but because he also showed a pure swing in batting practice. Paulsen generated average major league bat-speed with solid-average power in the present. He showed me a natural lift and good extension on his swing.
The only red flags were that he started his hands low and that he got out on his front foot. The latter concerned me with how he’d handle breaking balls and in the game he really struggled.
I’m led to believe this was just a bad game for Paulsen at the plate and I can see him performing much better on another random date. The swing is there to become a good hitter at the big league level.
Defensively, I project Paulsen as an above-average first baseman and believe he also has the potential to play a corner outfield position.
At first, Paulsen moves easily around the bag and showed solid-average range on a play in the hole. He has a 40 arm and near-average hands right now. Though he’s a below-average (35) runner, he might have the right strides to become adequate in the outfield and I think his throws would carry even better than they do as an infielder.
At 6-3, 180 (by my estimation), Paulsen is lanky. He has sloped shoulders, a shallow chest, and slender legs. He’ll get 10-15 lbs stronger by age 23-24, but I don’t think his body projects beyond that. He’ll be small by major league first base standards.
OTHER CLEMSON NOTES: RHP Graham Stoneburner came in relief for Clemson throwing four full innings behind Dwyer. He’s a draft-eligible sophomore, having turned 21 last fall. Stoneburner is undersized (I estimated him 5-11, 185 with a medium frame), but a good athlete with plus arm-strength (91-93 MPH for most of outing). He also showed an average curveball at times (78 MPH), but it was inconsistent and hung too often in his last inning of work. Because of his lack of size, he doesn’t get much downward plane on his fastball and the movement was well below-average. Still, there’s a lot to be interested in and I think he has a chance to crack the first ten (or maybe five) rounds next June…. Tiger closer Matt Vaughn ended up getting the win and he’s an interesting senior. The 6-3, 215 Vaughn doesn’t have the prettiest delivery. In fact, there’s a lot of effort. Vaughn jerks his head and falls off the mound after release. He doesn’t have a lot of core strength and his hip rotation is slow. Nevertheless, he shows good stuff for two innings, locating his 88-90 MPH fastball effectively to the corners. Vaughn’s curveball (75-76 MPH) projects to average and I believe his change-up can become a plus pitch. If someone drafts him and keeps him in the pen, I don’t put it past him to make it all the way up because his smarts and stuff might be just enough to get big league hitters out for an inning at a time…. 5-7, 170 centerfielder Addison Johnson is an intriguing player with 65 speed and a strong lefthanded swing. He plays with high energy and has the upside of a good major league backup outfielder. Johnson has the instincts and range for center but a well-below average arm. He has a short enough stroke to hit for average with wood in the future (against MLB pitching). Johnson may fall into the 8th-10th round range and I’d call him a sleeper once he’s in pro ball.
FSU NOTES: Sophomore-eligible outfielder D’Vontray Richardson started and got two at-bats against Chris Dwyer before being removed for a pinch-hitter. He went 1-2, grounding out to short and then hitting a high outside fastball off the right-center field fence for a double. His approach is still the same as when I blogged on him two weeks ago; no stride, swings early in the count. Still, I believe he has as much raw ability as any college outfielder in the draft. Richardson ran a 4.25 to first on his groundout…. FSU senior closer Jimmy Marshall came in for 2/3rds of an inning, retiring both batters while throwing a 90-92 MPH fastball to go with his big curveball. The solidly built 6-0, 209 righty will get draft interest as a mature money-saver. His curve is at times a solid-average pitch in the mid-70s, but he hangs a lot of them, too. Marshall’s arm-action is clean and efficient with an over-the-top slot. I can see him going in the 7th-10th round area.
On Sunday, I head southeast to Gainesville to watch Florida host Tennessee. Lefty Bryan Morgado takes the hill for UT, a 6-3 draft-eligible sophomore with a chance to go early. We have UT centerfielder Kentrail Davis projected in the preseason as a first-round pick, himself. Outfielders Matt Den Dekker and Riley Cooper plus closer Billy Bullock highlight the Florida Gator prospects.
On Monday, I’ll see Missouri HS phenom and potential 1st-round pick Jacob Turner pitch in Cocoa, Florida. The 6-4 righty will bring a horde of scouts to the space coast. Check back later for both of these blogs!