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part of Perfect Game's partnership with Baseball Prospectus, David
Rawnsley, Todd Gold and Patrick Ebert will be conducting a “Before
They Were Pros” series, providing scouting reports on some of the
top prospects in baseball from when they were in high school
attending PG events. This six-part series (one for each division in
MLB) will appear once Baseball Prospectus has provided their own
detailed scouting reports of the top prospects, team-by-team, as part
of their “Prospects Will Break Your Heart” series.
continue by looking at select top prospects from National League
Central teams. Be sure to read Baseball Prospectus' features on each
of these five teams:
Javier Baez – SS
a native of Puerto Rico, was a bit late to arrive on the national
prospect scene, but was a well known player within the Jacksonville
area, where he attended high school at Arlington Country Day School.
He made up for lost time, opening eyes in his first WWBA appearance
after being scooped up by East Cobb's highly visible program for an
early summer tournament. He was immediately invited to the PG
National Showcase, where he earned himself an invitation to the PG
All-American Classic. At that game he shared the left side of the
infield with fellow Puerto Rican native and 2011 first round pick
Francisco Lindor, who he also teamed with at the WWBA World
Championship in Jupiter that October as members of the loaded
Cardinals Scout Team.
offensive upside was highly regarded in the prospect community, and
his power projection made him a household name amongst scouts within
weeks of landing on the national radar. The question about his
long-term future was his eventual defensive home. His quick actions,
smooth hands and plus arm strength assured that he could be at least
an above average infielder playing on the left side of the diamond.
The question was whether or not he could stay at shortstop as he
matured and his body began to add mass. He also made a few cameos
behind the plate as a catcher, though his offensive upside prevented
that idea from picking up much steam given the time and attention
that would have been required for him to learn the finer points of
there was a considerable amount of swing-and-miss to his game due to
his super aggressive hitting approach, he was widely considered a
safe bet to come off the board in the first round because of his
elite bat speed and power projection. Those who had faith in both his
ability to make frequent contact against professional pitching and
stick at shortstop saw him as one of the elite prospects in a top
heavy 2011 draft class. The Cubs fell into the latter group and
selected him with the ninth overall pick. –
Albert Almora – OF
haven’t been many players at Almora’s prospect level who followed
the mantra “play as often as possible against the best players as
possible as soon as possible” any more actively in pursuing
becoming a better player.
all his high level experience as a teenager it is no wonder that
Almora’s top attributes as a baseball player are often considered
to be his skills and make-up rather than his physical tools. They've
been developed differently than most teenagers.
played for various USA National teams for four consecutive years. He
hit .667-3-14 in eight games for the 2008 14u Team. He spent the next
two years playing for the 16u team, hitting .356-1-15 in 2009 and
.455-1-5 in 2010. In 2011 he graduated to the 18u National team and
was the Most Valuable player at the Pan American championship.
played in four different WWBA World Championships beginning his
freshman year, the first two with the All-American Prospects,
followed by a year each with the Florida Legends and FTB Mizuno.
There is no official record kept for players who have done this, but
if there were, it would be a very short and exclusive list.
also played in two WWBA World Junior Championships, the Perfect Game
Junior National and National Showcases, the East Coast Professional
Showcase and topped it off with the 2011 Perfect Game All-American
no event did Almora ever have the best tools. His fastest recorded
sixty in the PG database is a 6.78 and his best outfield velocity was
89 mph. At 6-foot-2 and a slender 180 pounds, he didn’t stand out
as the alpha prospect in any crowd of athletic teenagers either. But
he was frequently the best baseball player.
defining moment as a prospect was at the 2011 East Coast Professional
Showcase in Lakeland, Fla. That was an absurdly talented gathering of
players, highlighted by Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa in full tool
mode and Lance McCullers hitting 100 mph on the scoreboard radar gun.
But Almora stole the show from the very beginning. As the first
batter in the first game on the first day of the four day event,
Almora blasted a deep home run to left-center field. He did the same
thing in his second at-bat. The final score of the game was 2-0.
grabbed everyone’s attention that day and carried it all the way
through the next year, when the Cubs picked him with the sixth pick
in the 2012 draft and signed him to a $3.9 million bonus. Even though
he was advised by Scott Boras, Almora carried no signability issues
into the draft as the scouting community all knew he was a 100
percent dedicated ball player who should and would be playing
C.J. Edwards – RHP
pre-professional background is the stuff that movies could be made
from if he makes it big in the Major Leagues. He was a 48th round draft choice in 2011 of the Texas Rangers out of Mid-Carolina
High School about a half hour north of Columbia, South Carolina. 2011
was, of course, the last year the draft went 50 rounds – it was
reduced to 40 rounds in 2012. It’s safe to say that Edwards will be
the last top prospect ever picked in the 48th round.
Edwards reportedly received a $50,000 bonus in that round to buy him
out of a scholarship to Charleston Southern is pretty impressive for
that round. The Rangers knew they had something.
S.C. is a town with a listed population of 1,184. Only Edwards didn’t
really live in Prosperity, he lived about six miles outside of
Prosperity down a couple of dirt roads. If you’ve driven around the
rural Deep South much, it isn’t hard to picture. Edwards had two
nicknames growing up due to his baseball prowess and build, the
“String Bean Slinger” and “Satch” – the latter after the
great Satchel Paige.
somewhat surprisingly given his background, Edwards did play at three
WWBA tournaments in high school, two for the Carolina Cyclones and
one for the Diamond Devils. He wasn’t a hidden player by any means,
just an obscure one. His first event was at the 2009 16u WWBA
National Championship coming out of his sophomore year. He threw in
the 82-86 mph range with a 72 mph curveball and 77 mph changeup. The
scout notes on him from that event read:
effort, raw, whippy AA, not real great mechanics, doesn't follow
through, w/coaching could be a great pitcher, FB has cut and ASR, can
mix them up, once he warmed up his CB was sick-nasty.
final appearance was at the 2011 18u WWBA National Championship about
a month after he was drafted. It’s easy to imagine that the Rangers
had multiple scouts in attendance to see Edwards pitch. He threw
87-90 mph on his fastball with a 73 mph curveball and 85 mph
cutter/slider. His notes from that event read:
arm angle, Good command, Throws strikes, Arm works well, Effortless
arm action, Good follow through, Sharp downhill, Throws easy, Quick
arm, Works fast, Attacks hitters, Stays tall on backside, Smooth
Dan Vogelbach – 1B
most certainly did not fit the mold of an elite draft prospect as a
teenager. For starters, organizations are typically very hesitant to
invest heavily in high school first basemen. In the five drafts prior
to Vogelbach's 2011 draft class only two high school first basemen
were selected in the top 50 picks.
Hosmer, who is the kind of athlete who would've been a high level
third base prospect if he were born a righthanded thrower, was
selected third overall in 2008. Christian Yelich was selected by the
Marlins in 2010 and was immediately shifted to center field.
even within the high school first base demographic, Vogelbach didn't
fit the mold of a prototypical prospect due to his thick, stout
build. Many scouts either wrote him off completely as a result, or
were slow to come around on him. This was certainly not a secret to
Vogelbach himself, who was fueled by the doubters and played with an
obvious chip on his shoulder.??
son of a personal trainer, Vogelbach was and is a much better athlete
than he is generally given credit for. He ran a 7.20 60-yard dash as
an underclassman, which while below average is not at a level that
precludes him from being able to run the bases at a competent level
as a professional. After being measured at 5-foot-10 and 250 pounds
at the 2010 East Coast Pro Showcase, Vogelbach worked hard over the
off-season heading into his senior year, shedding 20 pounds. Of
course, that would've gone unnoticed were it not for the fact that
over his high school career Vogelbach had clearly established himself
as one of, if not the, best hitters in the country.??
had one of the most prolific careers in the World Wood Bat
Association's history, consistently putting up huge offensive numbers
while hitting in the middle of the order for one of the top travel
baseball programs on the national circuit; FTB (Florida Travel Ball).
He showed the ability to drive the ball out of every part of the park
with ease, using a well controlled swing with plus bat speed and
tremendous strength at contact, and an advanced approach with no
the year leading up to the 2011 draft there was a philosophical
debate taking place amongst scouts, and Vogelbach was clearly the
catalyst. It was generally phrased along the lines of, “if a player
is projected to be a legitimate plus hitter at the Major League
level, but doesn't project as an average defender at any position, is
he worth a first round pick?” There wasn't a consensus as to
whether or not Vogelbach could develop into a serviceable defensive
first basemen with time in a player development system, or if he
would live up to his lofty offensive ceiling. But it was plainly
clear that Vogelbach was at least one of the best hitters in the
class, with many feeling he was the best, and that he was never going
to win a gold glove.
was a general feeling heading into the 2011 draft that Vogelbach was
likely to be taken by an American League club. But it was the Cubs,
who spent aggressively on the best available player on the board who
took advantage of the industry's skepticism, landing a first round
caliber bat with their second round pick. –
Tyrone Taylor – OF
was a two-sport star in high school and played in only one national
level event, the 2011 Area Code Games. With all his achievements in
football and the energy it probably took, that’s probably not
his senior year at Torrance High School between Los Angeles and Long
Beach, Taylor rushed for 1,521 yards and 20 touchdowns and also added
25 more receptions good for 10 more touchdowns. He excelled on
defense as well, making 190 tackles and intercepting three passes. He
also kicked off for Torrance and recorded 29 touchbacks and even
picked up seven more points on PAT’s. In an evident attempt to make
sure he never left the field, Taylor also returned punts and
produced at much the same level on the baseball field, hitting
.488-4-29 as a senior and .473-6-25 as a junior.
baseball skills were understandably raw, especially for a top
prospect from Southern California, but his athleticism stood out. He
had easy plus speed and was big and strong enough to be showing
present power and plenty of offensive projection. His Perfect Game
notes from the Area Code Games certainly reflect that:
runner, plays the game fast, raw hitting mechanics, pulls up and out,
finds the barrel consistently, has hitting skills despite mechanics,
surprising pop, ball jumps, could be a big surprise over the next
Brewers selected Taylor with their second round pick in the 2012
draft and eventually signed him for a $750,000 bonus, well over the
recommended slot of $523,000. Taylor passed on a baseball scholarship
to Cal State Fullerton to enter professional baseball.
Jimmy Nelson – RHP
big-bodied Jimmy Nelson already checked in at 6-foot-5, 220-pounds
when he made his first Perfect Game showcase appearance at the 2006
Florida Showcase. At the event Nelson pumped his sinking fastball up
to 86 mph while also throwing both a promising slider and a changeup.
year later at the 2007 World Showcase – where he earned a PG grade
of 9.5 and was named to the event's top prospect list – Nelson's
fastball was now thrown consistently as his previous peak velocity,
touching 89 while throwing a harder, firmer slider and his usual
polished change. Here's his report from that event:
has a big and tall country strong type of build that could get really
strong in the future. Nelson throws from a complicated, multi-piece
delivery with a full arms over head takeaway and a high 3/4's release
point. There are plenty of inconsistencies he'll have to iron out at
the next level. His arm works very well through all of it. His best
pitch was an 80 mph slider that had a sharp 2-plane break and was
nasty at times and will be a major weapon for him in the future.
Nelson had much better command of his slider than his other pitches
and lots of confidence in the pitch. His fastball was 86-89 mph from
a good downhill plane and it had excellent sink at times when he got
it low in the strike zone. Nelson's change up also showed quality and
he should consider throwing it more often. Nelson is a very good
prospect now and when he gets his delivery under control and his
strength grows into his frame, he could be something special. That
slider will be unhittable when he's throwing it 85 mph. Nelson is a
very good student who will be attending Alabama.
did indeed attend Alabama after going undrafted out of high school.
He continued to work on his delivery while in college and his
fastball continued to add velocity, thrown consistently in the
upper-80s – where it showed more sinking life – and peaking in
the low-90s. Nelson's slider also continued to be a plus offering for
him, thrown with the same arm speed and action as his fastball,
giving him the profile of a sinker-slider innings eater. –
Taylor Jungmann – RHP
reputation led to him being selected to participate in the 2007 PG
All-American Classic despite not attending a Perfect Game event prior
to that. Here is the report from his performance at the Classic:
started off a little shaky, as he appeared to be over-throwing while
not incorporating his whole body into his delivery as he was out of
rhythm and all over the place. The good thing is that he was missing
low, and the better thing is that he started to settle down and
pitched quite well despite giving up a walk and a base hit to (Tim)
Beckham and (Ethan) Martin respectively. He showed once he settled
down that he does have pretty good fastball command and a nasty
slider, using one such pitch to set Destin Hood down swinging.
the Angels selected him in the 24th round out of high school in the 2008 draft, it wasn't nearly early
enough to sway him from him strong commitment to his home-state Texas
Longhorns. There Jungmann enjoyed immediate success, and was
remarkably consistent during his three-year stay with the Longhorns,
collectively going 32-6 with a 1.63 ERA and highlighted by his 13-0,
0.95 campaign as a junior, which cemented his status as a first-round
pick in the 2011 draft.
Texas his success was predicated largely on his command, effectively
changing speeds between his low-90s fastball, which would peak in the
mid-90s and usually settle in to the upper-80s later in games, a
slider, curveball and changeup. He grew more confident throwing his
curveball during his college career, effectively dropping it in for
strikes to induce weak, early contact, but none of his secondary
pitches projected as much more than average.
on this profile, since he wasn't over-powering, his ceiling was that
of a No. 3 starter. Because he consistently displayed plus command of
four offerings he could throw for strikes, he also had a high floor,
and was believed a safer bet to contribute effective innings at the
Major League level.
Robert Stephenson – RHP
grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and like many young top
players from that region, didn’t travel much in high school until
the beginning of his senior year. His first national level event was
the Perfect Game National Showcase in June, 2010. He quickly showed
that he was a top pitching prospect, sitting steadily at 92-93 mph
during his outing with a mid-70s curveball and a 77 mph changeup.
Stephenson was an easy choice for the 2010 PG All-American Classic
based on his stuff and very projectable build, but the package was
still pretty raw.
The scouting notes from that event read as follows:
slender build, not close to mature, big leg raise delivery, drift in
delivery, some effort, quick arm, loose actions, CB has v. short flat
break, FB runs arm side, Good change but rarely uses, some head jerk,
misses arm side, command improved 2nd IP, spin/effort not ideal but a
in the summer it was obvious that Stephenson was doing exactly what
one wants to see a young high level pitching prospect do; improve in
noticeable and multiple ways. At the Area Code Games and PG
All-American Classic in August, Stephenson upped his velocity to the
93-95 mph range and developed more depth to his curveball and better
relative velocity to his more frequently used changeup. His notes
from the Area Code Games read:
leg raise delivery, rocks back, sometimes gets off balance, +
athletic build, projects, occ has trouble working down in zone, mixes
pitches well for a young power pitcher, change was very nice at
senior year, when scouts frequently got to double up on days with he
and fellow first round pick Joe Ross in nearby Oakland, was more of
the same. He opened the season with a pair of no-hitters and ended up
striking out 119 batters in 61 innings. Stephenson generally worked
in the 92-94 mph range, topping out at 97 mph, and he frequently
maintained that velocity through a full seven innings. The debate
between Stephenson and Ross centered around Ross being smoother with
less effort in his delivery versus Stephenson’s lightning fast arm
and tick better raw stuff.
won on draft day by going two picks higher than Stephenson’s 27th slot to the Reds, where he received a $2 million signing bonus. Thus
far it looks like Stephenson has the edge as a professional, however.
Billy Hamilton – OF
Billy Hamilton made his first appearance at a Perfect Game tournament
event – the 2006 16u WWBA National Championship – he was a
5-foot-6, 115-pound shortstop/righthanded pitcher whose athleticism
was obvious. Not surprisingly his game was highlighted by his
quickness and speed even if he didn't have the strength necessary to
consistently drive the ball.
years later Hamilton had grown to 6-foot, 150-pounds, and while he
still needed to continue to add strength to improve his impact at the
plate, his game-changing speed allowed him to wreak havoc simply by
putting the ball in play.
isn't to say Hamilton was weak, as he had visible, wiry strength, and
even took to the mound with the ability to reach 90 mph with a
is a collection of reports from the tournament events he attended:
runner, great range in CF, 4.46 RH turn. Good range at ss, in CF w/
above avg HS arm. When he physically matures he could blow up. Smooth
CF. Good wheels. Fast out of the box, good swing, kid flies, can go
the other way. 4.22 H-1B. Hustle double, baseball instincts, runs
well. Tall thin RH, slow delivery, good arm action, over the top
delivery, quick to plate, early control trouble, good CB with weak
made one more appearance at a PG tournament in 2009 at the 18u
National Championship prior to signing with the Reds as their
second-round pick that year. At that event he showed the promise as
to why he was selected as early as he was, although there was still
the need for him to improve as a hitter. His athleticism with three
plus tools – arm strength, defense and foot speed – made it easy
for the Reds to select him as early as they did, and those tools
continue to be the foundation to his success.
Jesse Winker – OF
was as well traveled as a teenage baseball prospect could be,
competing in 25 Perfect Game events during his high school career,
many with the FTB Mizuno organization, along with a pair of East
Coast Pro Showcases, an Area Code Games and the 2011 USA National 18u
team. On top of that, he played on a top flight Olympia High School
team with first round righthanded pitcher Walker Weickel – now a
member of the Padres organization – and a young shortstop named
playing in all those high profile events enabled Winker to do for the
scouts was to give them the opportunity to track the huge
improvements he made as an athlete over that time. Winker already had
a national reputation as a hitter during his sophomore year, but was
somewhat of a slow-twitch athlete who had below average speed (7.5
second in the 60-yard dash) and arm strength on the professional
grading scale. At that point he looked like a future sweet-swinging
college left fielder.
changed significantly over the next two years, as Winker got stronger
and quicker. He got his sixty times down around 7.0 and his arm went
from being a non-factor to a plus weapon. The extra strength and
quickness in his body found its way into the barrel of his bat in the
form of big power.
was an ironic side to Winker’s improved arm strength. The
lefthander rarely pitched for either Olympia High School or for FTB
Mizuno, but was pressed into pitching for the 2011 USA National 18u
team. He went 2-0, 0.00, with a save, including a complete game
seven-inning shutout featuring only 66 pitches and was named the top
pitcher at the Pan Am Championship. Winker did pitch in relief during
his senior high school season, usually topping out in the 93-94 mph
defining moment as a prospect came in the same place as it does for
many top prospects, in Jupiter at the WWBA World Championship. FTB
Mizuno coach Jered Goodwin put together and unparalleled outfield
featuring a trio of PG All-Americans including Winker, Albert Almora
and David Dahl. Winker outshined both the future top 10 picks,
leading all Jupiter players in RBI and hitting a pair of long home
runs. In the playoff quarterfinals, with FTB Mizuno down 5-3 in the
bottom of the fifth inning, two outs and the bases loaded, Winker
took a mighty cut and just got under a ball that was caught on the
warning track in right field. A grand slam could have very well
changed the entire course of the tournament.
– David Rawnsley
Jameson Taillon – RHP
very well may have been a legitimate choice for the No. 1 overall
pick in the 2010 draft if it weren't for the simple fact that young
phenom Bryce Harper was also available. Built tall and strong at
6-foot-7, 230-pounds, Taillon had the workhorse frame and the stuff
to match to project as a staff ace.
made Taillon even more impressive was his athleticism and body
control, as young pitchers of his stature often have difficulty
repeating their deliveries. He also threw from a pronounced downhill
plane, which made his fastball – which could sit in the 93-96 range
while flirting with triple digits at times – that much harder to
catch up to. He also threw a low-80s hammer curve giving him two
distinct swing-and-miss pitches.
profile allowed Taillon to start the 2009 PG All-American Classic for
the West squad, coincidentally throwing to the aforementioned Harper
behind the plate. In that game he struck out four of the six batters
he faced, three of them swinging on fastballs.
pitched at numerous PG events, including the 2009 National Showcase,
where his report read as follows:
large athletic build, plus strong, very well coordinated actions.
Well paced 3/4's cross body release, long extended arm action,
repeats + well. Maintained 95 mph FB from stretch, outstanding angle
to RHH's. Present plus true CB at times, hard and late with big
break, commands CB plus well. Only 1 change this outing, has flashed
plus change in past. No doubt #1 guy in class, special talent. Very
good student, early draft prospect, verbal to Rice.
continued his dominance on the travel circuit the rest of that
summer, including his appearance at the Classic. He showed much of
the same the following spring, leading to the Pirates taking him with
the No. 2 overall pick in June, right behind Harper.
Nick Kingham – RHP
Kingham’s career as a prospect got off to a bumpy start, but once
he got moving forward it took off quickly. He didn’t pitch in high
school during his junior (2009) season due to transfer rules enforced
in Las Vegas. His first Perfect Game showcase was the 2009 Sunshine
West Showcase, which is held in early June just prior to the National
of the primary functions of the Sunshine Showcases (there will be
five in 2014) is a final sweep of the country to find any overlooked
players that belong at the National Showcase. Numerous top prospects,
including Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Cubs first
baseman Anthony Rizzo were first seen at these events.
threw very well at Sunshine West, pitching in the 85-88 mph range
with a hard 75 mph curveball and an 80 mph changeup. Here are his
notes from that event:
works, good pitcher’s build, arm speed, projects, long levers, low
effort, balanced, some extension, can stay back better, opens a bit
early with front hip, sharp CB, 11/5 CB, pot 92-93 arm, some down
plane, 84-86 from stretch, comes out clean, can get more from
midsection, occ ASR FB, occ GSR FB, quick move.
did earn his invitation to the National Showcase and his first
exposure before a national scouting audience. He threw even better at
that event, throwing in the 88-90 range with two quality secondary
pitches. My own notes on Kingham’s performance didn’t understate
how much I liked him:
build, well-paced balanced delivery, loose athletic actions,
downhill, stays behind the ball, projects ++ well, compact in back,
Chg was very good, + arm speed, CB has hard spin/good shape, has an
idea how to pitch. Really LIKE this kid's potential.
stayed in that 88-90 mph range for the rest of the summer and fall
while maintaining his high level secondary pitches and ability to
mix. One just knew that it was only a matter of time before he
started throwing harder and he did, bumping up his comfort range the
next spring to 90-92 and touching 94 mph regularly.
a scholarship to Oregon in hand, the Pirates selected Kingham with
their fourth round pick, the 117th overall selection. They signed him for $480,000 about 10 days before
the signing deadline. –
Josh Bell – OF
was a well-known prospect after hitting .412-11-36 as a junior at
Jesuit Prep in Dallas and was on his way to experiencing the full
force of the summer showcase circuit in the summer of 2010 until he
fractured his right kneecap in a high school playoff game and missed
the entire summer.
put the scouting community well behind on Bell compared to his peers
in the class of 2011. It was frequently written and commented on that
Bell would be the most watched player at the WWBA World Championship
in late October, where he was playing for the Dallas Patriots. With a
huge contingent of scouts following his every move, Bell proceeded to
put on one of the best performances in Jupiter history. He blasted
three home runs in pool play to lead the Patriots to the playoffs. In
the quarterfinals, the Patriots were the victims of one of the most
brilliant pitching performances ever at that level of baseball,
facing off against Jose Fernandez at the peak of his abilities. While
Fernandez threw mid-90s with a disappearing slider and pin-point
control for six innings, Bell had a pair of quality at-bats,
including a hard base hit, and looked remarkably comfortable against
the otherwise dominant Cuban.
went on to hit an eye-opening .552-14-55 as a senior, with 19 stolen
bases, 48 walks and only five strikeouts.
non-hitting tools were frequently described as fringy average leading
up to the draft. He was a 6.9 to 7.0 runner with fair arm strength,
tools that both played up because Bell showed very good instincts on
the bases and in the outfield. But it was his ability to hit equally
well and with power from both sides of the plate that made up almost
his entire value as a prospect.
path leading up to the draft and to signing with the Pirates was not
as pretty as his swing, however. As a very hot commodity with Scott
Boras as his advisor and a strong commitment to Texas, it had all
makings of a player with complicated signability issues. Late in the
spring Bell sent a letter to all 30 Major League teams that he was
firm in his commitment to Texas and would be going to school. Even
though Bell was perceived as having potential top 10 overall pick
talent, he slid to the Pirates with the 61st overall pick. The Pirates then surprised virtually everyone by
finding Bell’s price, which turned out to be an even $5 million.
Kolten Wong – 2B
talents were evident at an early age, and it was never a surprise
that he could hit, as his father, Kaha, spent two years in the minor
leagues, posting a .280/.345/.351 slash line, and is now one of the
more respected hitting instructors on the Big Island.
first attended a PG event as a high school sophomore, the Hawaii
Showcase in 2006, and came state-side during the summer of 2007 to
attend the National Showcase in Cincinnati, Ohio. A very good overall
athlete with great versatility and a wide array of tools from a
compact, 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame, Wong was a catcher early in high
school before eventually making the permanent switch to second base.
He also played in the outfield, as well as some time at shortstop
while at the University of Hawaii.
a compact lefthanded swing Wong proved to be one of the better
hitters in the nation, routinely smoking line drives to all parts of
the field while also displaying surprising pop for a player of his
stature. He also exhibited good foot speed and quickness, giving him
a well-rounded tool-set. Here's his report from the National where he
earned a PG grade of 9.0 (out of 10):
has a short, compact build with good present strength. Wong has swung
between catcher and second base and played mostly catcher in
Cincinnati. His tools and actions are better suited for second base,
where he has good quickness and speed (6.88 in the 60), and we are
told that is the position that he is going to play in college. Wong's
left handed bat will play well at either premium defensive position.
He hits from a balanced coil at the plate with very quick hands and a
pull type of approach. For much of the showcase Wong seemed to be
content to make contact and didn't elevate his bat speed and ability
to drive the ball like we've seen frequently in the past. When Wong
stepped up against 6-8 Kyle Long and his 94-96 mph fastball, we saw
the true Wong, though. He was unfazed by the velocity and showed the
bat speed we knew he had, along with the aggressiveness. Wong's bat
plays and he has an aggressive ballplayer's approach to the game.
Twins took Wong in the 16th round of the 2008 draft, but
he opted to take his talents to the University of Hawaii and ended up
being a first-round pick three years later. He was a College
All-American at Hawaii, and also was named the MVP on the Cape Cod
League during the summer of 2010.
a snippet of his Draft Focus report prior to the 2011 draft:
for pound, there may not be a better prospect in the 2011 draft class
than the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Wong. He has well-rounded skills and may
have solidified his status as a potential first-rounder last summer
by passing up an offer to return to Team USA’s college national
team for a second season. He elected instead to play in the Cape Cod
League, where he earned league MVP honors for a .341-3-11 season
along with a league-best 22 stolen bases. Wong showcased polished
offensive skills with a sound approach from the left side of the
plate, and surprising pop for a player his size. He drove the ball
hard consistently. He also became an accomplished base stealer …
Wong had been an extremely versatile player earlier in his career,
and spent most of freshman season at Hawaii in center field, while
earning national acclaim by hitting .341-11-52 with 11 stolen bases.
After initially being tried as a catcher as a sophomore, he settled
in at second base and hit a solid .357-7-40 with 19 stolen bases …
Though not blessed with blazing speed, Wong is aggressive on the
bases and has excellent base-running instincts.
success of Kolten from high school to college and now as a pro led
the Tampa Bay Rays to drafting his younger brother Kean, a similar
overall prospect, in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. –
Carson Kelly – 3B
State of Oregon has received plenty of baseball attention in the last
decade due to the pair of NCAA championships won by Oregon State,
plus the re-emergence and immediate success of the baseball program
the state rarely produces much in the way of high school baseball
talent. Carson Kelly had the distinction of probably being the
state’s best high school hitting and pitching prospect in the last
two decades while he was at Westview High School in Portland. The
last high school player to be selected in the first round of the
draft from Oregon was first baseman Matt Smith by the Royals in 1994.
The only prep pitcher selected in the top three rounds during the
same time was the late Steve Belcher, taken in the third round by the
Orioles in 1998.
was picked in the second round with the 86th overall selection.
so than any player in the 2012 draft, Kelly was a true two-way
prospect who had scouts lined up on both sides of the fence as to his
future role in professional ball. Here is what was wrote in late
March of 2012 in Kelly’s Perfect Game Draft Focus report:
is a primary third baseman. He’s very athletic defensively at third
base, the kind of defender who plays on his toes and is very quick
laterally on ground balls and line drives. His arm strength is a
clear plus tool both on the mound and throwing across the infield,
and he has a flexible, quick release. Offensively, Kelly has a very
nice load and hitting rhythm with a bit bigger leg raise trigger than
some scouts prefer. He shows plus raw power from the right side and
has nice lift in his swing when he’s pulling the ball. Kelly will
get long at times and expand the strike zone, especially on off-speed
pitches, but he handles high velocity stuff well.
perhaps, Kelly is more polished on the mound. He has a simple,
repeatable delivery and sits in the 90-92 mph range with minimal
effort on release. For a pitcher who throws in the low-90s so
consistently, it’s somewhat unusual that there have never been
reports that he’ll touch 94-95 at times as most young strong armed
pitchers do occasionally. That’s a sign for me that his present
mechanics work well for him and he’s throwing in his envelope right
now with his fastball.
has shown less consistency with his breaking ball. I’ve seen him
with a mid-70s curveball, but the best breaking ball I’ve seen him
throw was at the 2011 Area Code Games, when he was throwing an 80 mph
pitch I called a slider but which had tight, hard bite, good depth
and was buckling hitter’s knees with consistency. Kelly has a
changeup that still is in the developing stages, and he throws
consistent strikes with all three pitches. If he can develop
consistency with the 80 mph hard biting version of his breaking ball,
I can see more and more scouts leaning toward his future as a
Tim Cooney – RHP
Although Cooney displayed solid baseball skills while in high school, it was clear at the time that his body needed to mature physically before he could reach his potential. At the time, that potential was unclear with a slight 6-foot-1, 165-pound frame. He did attend the Northeast Showcase after his sophomore year in high school, topping out at 84 with a sharp 74 mph curveball, earning a PG grade of 8.0 and this report:
Pitches from a high 3/4 arm slot, solid mechanics, clean arm action, straight FB at 84 mph, tight CB at 74 mph, CB has depth, mixes in a 74 mph CH, hits from a slightly open stance, high hands, top hand release, level swing plane, makes consistent contact, excellent student.
His velocity held throughout his high school career, peaking at 85 mph during his senior year while pitching for All Star Baseball Academy at the 2008 WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., and went undrafted the following June.
Cooney elevated his game to another level while in college at Wake Forest, adding two inches and 30 pounds to his previously slight frame. He made a strong initial impression during his freshman year at Wake Forest, pitching in 14 games, 13 of which were starts, and served as the Demon Deacons' Friday ace during his junior season. His fastball sat in the upper-80s to low-90s, peaking a few ticks higher, while routinely displaying a well-rounded four-pitch mix and advanced sense for changing speeds.
Here's part of his Draft Focus pre-draft report from 2012:
Cooney emerged as a solid second- or third-rounder with a breakthrough sophomore season, and he essentially solidified his standing in the draft as a junior … Typically, (his fastball) ranges from 88-91 mph, but Cooney tried to overthrow it, at times, to achieve a little more velocity, and while it often reached 92-93 mph, his command suffered in the process. He threw quality strikes with his fastball more consistently towards the end of the season as he made a more-conscious effort to stay within himself. He did not have the same kind of command issues with any of his three off-speed pitches, a change, cutter and breaking ball. His cutter, which normally sits in the mid-80s, is considered his best secondary offering. Cooney typical relies on an advanced sense of pitchability for his success, and precise command is critical in his approach. At his best, Cooney excels at mixing his four pitches efficiently to get hitters guessing and keeping them off balance, and he is able to create deception with his loose, easy, free arm action. – Patrick Ebert
Randal Grichuk – OF
While Houston area native Randal Grichuk will always be known as the high school outfielder that the Angels took just before Mike Trout in the 2009 draft, the selection actually made sense in the context of the time that the decision was made. Trout was a late bloomer in high school, especially with the bat, and New Jersey had an especially cold and rainy spring that year, making it difficult for cross-checkers and scouting directors to get a thorough read on him. Trout wasn’t an unknown by any means, but there wasn’t much surety on him.
Grichuk, on the other hand, had been putting up eye opening home run numbers in the Houston area since he was in Little League. He was the dominant performer on the 2007 Team USA 16u National Team, which included players such as Nick Franklin, A.J. Cole, Matt Davidson and Zach Lee, and he hit .563-3-6 in six games. He played in Jupiter twice with the Houston Heat and won the 2009 International High School Power Showcase, blasting 20 home runs overall. In his senior year in high school, Grichuk hit .613-21-46.
The ball made a different sound when it came off Grichuk’s bat at that age, it just exploded. It wasn’t a classic or even pretty swing by any means, as he hit down to the ball in an almost exaggerated way and didn’t have the lift and extension out front that one normally sees in power hitters. He just overpowered the ball with strength and bat speed.
Grichuk was also a 6.85 runner and regularly ran in the 4.2 to 4.3-second range to first base from the right side of the batter's box. He was considered a plus makeup young man with a plus motor on the field.
Here are the notes on Grichuk from the 2008 Area Code Games:
Strong kid, quick hands, live body look, kind of stiff at ball, level to almost downward swing, hits bombs, 420' to LCF off 90 mph FB, can flat hit, very hard contact, ball explodes, will fish at outside CBs, one of the best hitters in the 2009 class. Arm is marginal, likely LF future. – David Rawnsley