January 23, 2014
Perfect Game Presents
Before They Were Pros: NL West
As 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.
We continue by looking at select top prospects from National League West teams. Be sure to read Baseball Prospectus' features on each of these five teams:
Rockies | Padres | Giants | Diamondbacks | Dodgers
Eddie Butler – RHP
With a pair of WWBA National Championships under his belt—the 16u in 2007 and the 18u in 2008—Timothy Edward Butler's first and only Perfect Game showcase was the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Top Prospect Showcase. Built tall and lanky at 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds, the righthander peaked at 90 mph at the event, comfortably sitting in the upper-80s while showing plenty of room for added velo as he continued to fill out his projectable frame. Here is his report from that event:
Lean athletic build, body projects well on the mound, long loose arm action, 3/4 arm slot, good arm speed, very live arm, arm works well, shows a tight slider, pitches with his fastball well, solid command, big upside, barrels the ball up well at the plate, consistent solid contact, ball jumps some on contact, good leverage, big raw arm strength in the field, accurate outfield arm, sound outfield tools, soft hands, solid student, highest-level prospect.
Butler earned a PG grade of 9 at that event, and although he did show legitimate two-way talents, he took those talents to Radford after he was drafted in the 35th round of the 2009 draft by the Rangers.
At Radford, Butler continued to progress, initially beginning his college career as a reliever before being inserted into the Highlanders' starting rotation by the end of his freshman year. His velocity gradually climbed and soon he was pitching at 93-95 at his best, with the ability to peak at 97 when used in shorter spurts. He was part of a dominant Harwich pitching staff on the Cape during the summer of 2012 that included fellow future first-round picks Kevin Gausman, Pierce Johnson and Chris Stratton.
That performance on the Cape allowed Butler to enter the spring of 2012 as a potential first-round pick, and was eventually selected by the Rockies in the supplemental first round, although there continued to be a debate in the scouting community as to where his talents would be best served.
Here's part of Butler's Draft Focus report prior to the 2012 draft:
(Butler) is not overly physical at 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds, but has a very live body and quick arm, and his aggressive demeanor is ideal with a game on the line. Butler is also essentially a two-pitch pitcher as he rarely uses his changeup. He has demonstrated a good feel for spinning a breaking ball and his slider has become a nice complement to his overpowering fastball. As he embarks on the next stage of his blossoming career, Butler will just need to continue to work on developing some of the finer points of pitching, such as moving the ball around the strike zone with purpose and utilizing his off-speed stuff more efficiently. —Patrick Ebert
David Dahl – OF
2011 PG All-American outfielder David Dahl began to impress the PG scouting staff at a very early age, impressing as a shortstop at the 2008 14u WWBA National Championship. He would also see time on the mound during his early years, running his fastball up to 91 mph the summer following his sophomore season at Oak Mountain (Ala.) High School. The fact that he showed talent all over the diamond as an underclassmen should come as no surprise, given how well-rounded his tools became by the time the 2012 draft rolled around.
Dahl’s prospect resume was already long and well-rounded entering his draft year in 2012, though it was a bit unconventional for a prospect who had been on the radar from an early age. He saw a lot of time on the mound in the summer of 2010 and he missed a significant chunk of the summer of 2011 due to mononucleosis. While scouts had plenty of chances to see him do a variety of things on the field and get a feel for his tools, it wasn’t until the 2011 WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., where he really got to show off the overall package in center field while playing at 100 percent health.
The 2012 draft class was very deep on high school outfielders, and Dahl was just one of several prospects that showed high-level upside entering the draft. Interestingly, there wasn’t a single area in which Dahl was the cream of the crop, yet he belonged on the short list along with some highly impressive peers in every single category. Here's a snippet of Dahl's Draft Focus report from 2012:
There are seven outfielders ranked by Perfect Game among the top 20 prospects in the 2012 high school class. This is one of the top groups of high school outfielders since the renowned 2005 class that saw Justin Upton, Andrew McCutchen, Cameron Maybin, Jay Bruce and Colby Rasmus picked in the first round. Of those seven, David Dahl probably has the best combination of tools and present skills across the board, although he doesn’t really rank first in any single category. Despite running a 6.49 at the Perfect Game National, Dahl’s speed ranks behind Byron Buxton and Lewis Brinson…Dahl doesn’t have a pure power stroke at the plate but has the bat speed and strength in his 6-2/190 frame to drive the ball out of the park...but Courtney Hawkins, Jesse Winker and Nick Williams will all grade out with more power potential among the top outfield prospects. Dahl’s defensive tools and skills in the outfield will rank him right near the top of any prospect list, right along with Buxton, and he projects to be able to play centerfield at the highest levels of the game. His 95 mph arm strength from the outfield is a big weapon.
The across the board tools were supplemented by an advanced feel for the game that would have put him in the pole position in that category in nearly every high school class, though he had stiff competition from Albert Almora in that category as well. Yet despite not possessing the best individual tool in any category, he was one of the most popular responses when scouts were asked “which high school player in this draft are you most confident will play in the big leagues?”
The only think that lacked from Dahl’s profile entering the 2012 draft was present power, an even in that category he clearly possessed the necessary ingredients to develop average or better power without projecting aggressively. He also earned high praise for his makeup and work ethic from coaches and scouts who knew him well as an amateur and thus it should come as little surprise that he became the 10th-overall pick. —Todd Gold
Kyle Parker – OF
It’s always been somewhat curious, if not ironic, that the Colorado Rockies have advanced Kyle Parker, their top pick (26th overall) in the 2010 draft, so conservatively. He spent an entire year at age 21 in Low-A, an entire year in High-A as a 22-year-old, and all of 2013 as a 23-year-old in Double-A. It’s curious because as a first round pick who has performed admirably and very consistently, one would think the Rockies would want to test one of their top prospects, especially at Parker’s age.
But it’s ironic because Parker’s history before he became a professional was as a very fast learner and precocious performer in both baseball and football.
Parker was much better known as a football quarterback at Bartram Trail High School in Jacksonville, Fla,. ESPN had him ranked as the no. 4 quarterback and no. 34 overall recruit in the nation, which isn't quite Jameis Winston territory but is still very, very good. At that age in baseball he was a power hitting catcher with plus arm strength and he also pitched.
It’s not unusual for a football player to enroll in college a semester early if he has the academics and Parker did that at Clemson. In addition to participating in spring football practice and going to class, he also played baseball for Clemson, in what should have been his senior high school season. Parker was a dominant player from the start of the season and was named All-ACC after hitting .303-14-50 with 32 walks.
On the football field it was more of the same story. Parker became the starting quarterback as a red-shirt freshman in 2009 and threw for 2,526 yards and 20 touchdowns and led Clemson to nine wins and a bowl victory.
In 2010, Parker became the first and so far only college player hit 20 home runs (.344-20-64) and throw for 20 touchdown passes in the same academic year. On April 11 of that year, he threw for 171 yards and a touchdown in the Clemson spring game, then came back and went 3-for-7 performance with two home runs in a Clemson baseball doubleheader.
So if there was ever a logical candidate for a player an organization could push up the ladder based on past performance and aptitude before he became a professional, it would probably be Kyle Parker. It just hasn’t happened that way. —David Rawnsley
Trevor Story – SS
Story was a classic shortstop prospect from Irving, Texas whose development followed an advisable script. He was a well known high school player locally as an underclassman who began competing on a national level following his sophomore year. He was a secondary pitcher, and given that he boasted plenty of arm strength it should come as no surprise that he ran has fastball into the mid-90s by the end of his high school career.
He and Josh Bell were the two big-time 2011 prospects on the Dallas Patriots, a program that was still emerging on the national scene at the time and didn't have a bid to the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter. Story almost singlehandedly changed that with his performance at the 2010 WWBA South Qualifier, going 5-for-6 with four doubles and a championship game winning three-run homer in the semi-final and championship games to send the Patriots to Jupiter.
It was in Jupiter where he and Bell put up big-time performances that cemented their statuses as top 50 draft prospects. Story's plus power, plus arm strength and athleticism combined for a clear cut top two round draft profile coming out of high school. —Todd Gold
San Diego Padres
Austin Hedges – C
Southern California is known for producing slick fielding shortstops who can impact the game with their defense and are highly sought after draft prospects as a result. But it is rare to find a catcher who fits the same profile. The stereotypical glove-first catcher is seen as a blue collar tough guy with a big barrel-chested build and plenty of accompanying physical strength.
Yet Hedges was a mold shattering prospect. A 6-foot, 170-pound, defense-first catcher is rarely the description of a high-round draft prospect, and had never been the profile of one of the best prospects in the talent rich area of Southern California. But Hedges was unlike anyone that came before him, a finesse catcher with incredible smooth and athletic actions behind the plate who caught the way fellow 2010 PG All-American and 2011 draftee Francisco Lindor played shortstop. Hedges had soft hands, a highly advanced understanding of framing and blocking, and even as a high school player was easily the most polished catcher in the draft. He was a Renoir of receiving and his plus-plus arm strength was only part of the defensive equation.
Scouts were completely sold on his defense, but the question that he raised was about the value of an elite defensive catcher who wasn't projected to be more than an average offensive player at the major league level. There weren't historical case studies from prior drafts to compare him to, and so while he was seen as a potential first rounder, nobody was exactly sure where he belonged in the pecking order of 2011 draft prospects.
There was also the issue of college, as Hedges was a 4.0 student in high school and was committed to UCLA, a national powerhouse program located near his home with an academic pedigree to rival their on-field prominence. Hedges was in a position of great leverage, which typically causes a player's draft position to dip in exchange for that additional signing bonus money. While he was actually selected in the second round, he received first round money, which is a better indication of how a player is valued by an organization. —Todd Gold
Matt Wisler – RHP
Wisler wasn’t a high profile pitching prospect in high school and it wouldn’t be a stretch to guess that the strong majority of big league scouting staffs were content to let him attend Ohio State for three or four years and see how his stuff developed and how he filled out his slender 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame. He finished his high school career in northern Ohio rated No. 192 in the Perfect Game class of 2011 rankings.
The Padres thought differently, though, and picked him in the seventh round and eventually offered him $500,000 to sign. For that modest cost they found themselves one of the top young pitching prospects in baseball.
Wisler appeared at five WWBA tournaments while in high school, including pitching for Bo Jackson Midwest at the 2009 WWBA World Championship and for the Marucci Elite at the same event in 2010. He topped out at 91 mph for Marucci in Jupiter, pitching in the upper-80s with a sharp 74 mph curveball.
His defining event though was at the 2010 East Coast Pro Showcase. He pitched in his usual 87-89 range, touching 91, with a 75-mph curveball and 82-mph changeup. Here are the scouting notes from that event:
Easy well-paced rotational delivery, 3/4's release, some wrap in back, works very quickly, loose and projectable, dominant CB, commands CB + well, hard bite, overmatched hitters.
Wisler’s curveball that day was as good as a 17-year-old can throw a curveball combining all aspects. It had power velocity, it had power spin, it was sharp and deep and he threw it where he wanted to consistently.
A very important but often overlooked aspect of projecting a young pitcher’s future fastball velocity gains is considering what his present curveball is like. A loose and physically immature pitcher who is in the mid- to upper-80s but throws a mid-70s hammer with hard spin and bite is almost always going to add velocity as he physically matures. It’s just going to happen if he stays healthy and gets stronger.
Unless you asked them directly, there’s no way of telling whether the Padres scouts figured this axiom into their decision to spend $500,000 on Wisler out of high school when virtually everyone else was loudly saying “pass” by their inaction. But it would be a good bet that they did. —David Rawnsley
Max Fried – LHP
Elite level pitching prospects are typically tall flame throwers who don't quite posses command before they get into the professional ranks. Max Fried was not a typical elite pitching prospect. He was a slender built, loose athlete whose fastball velocity was of secondary importance to his prospect profile. It should not be inferred that he was a soft-tossing lefty, as he would reach the mid-90s and worked comfortably in the 90-92 mph range during his senior year of high school.
But in terms of pure stuff, it was Fried's hammer curveball that highlighted his arsenal, showing big-time depth and sharp downer break with 12-to-6 shape. While his fastball featured requisite prospect grade velocity, it was more notable for it's late movement. His changeup was also highly advanced for a high school pitcher—it wasn't necessarily the best changeup in the class or a present plus offering, but within the context of his ability to throw it for strikes from the same plane and arm speed as his fastball, it was well ahead of the development curve.
Fried was firmly established on the national radar as an underclassmen, having been selected for the 2009 Area Code Games and was committed to national powerhouse UCLA. But when his high school dropped their athletics programs due to financial reasons he transferred to Harvard-Westlake, where he became teammates with the highest profile pitcher in the country and fellow 2011 PG All-American, Lucas Giolito.
Giolito was viewed at the time as a viable candidate to become the first high school righthander to ever be selected first overall. The addition of Fried, who was already considered to be a safe bet to be taken in the first round by that time, put even greater attention on Harvard-Westlake that spring. Giolito's season lasted just two starts before suffering a UCL injury, leaving Fried as the lone ace on a nationally ranked team. Fried was also a prospect level hitter who likely could have been a two-way player at UCLA, and he did his part that spring, having a big year both on the mound and at the plate. It wasn't enough to deliver a championship, but it was more than enough to be selected in the first round. —Todd Gold
Joe Ross – RHP
Ross was a pretty quick study at the 2010 PG National Showcase at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. He came out firing low-90s heat, peaking at 94 mph and throwing a sharp low-80s slider. That performance made it a fairly easy decision for him to be added to the PG All-American Classic roster that same summer. There he pitched at another big-league stadium, Petco Park, which he may call home for years to come as he ascends to his eventual debut with the Padres.
The scouting profile below on Ross posted on the Perfect Game website prior to the 2011 draft pretty much sums up Ross prior to his being drafted and signing with the Padres with the 25th overall pick. Robert Stephenson, it should be noted from the comparison below, went three picks later to the Reds.
Ross signed for a $2.75 million bonus.
Ross is the brother of Oakland A’s righthander Tyson Ross, a second-round pick of the A’s in 2008 who also attended Bishop O’Dowd High before going on to nearby Cal-Berkeley. Aside from being righthanded and throwing a 90-plus fastball/slider combination, the two don’t resemble each other as pitchers. Tyson was a big-framed 6-foot-5, 200-pounder at the same age and threw from an extremely compact arm action that concerned scouts; almost the exact opposite is true of brother Joe’s smooth, easy arm stroke. Ross has actually been more closely linked to fellow Northern California righthander Robert Stephenson over the past year, and both should go in approximately the same area of the draft, likely between picks 25 and 40—if signability doesn’t complicate their draft status. While Ross and Stephenson are very similar physically with long-limbed and loose athletic builds, their pitching styles and present stuff are not alike, giving scouts a good opportunity to see the differences between the two and make decisions based on those evaluations. Ross has a very clean, polished delivery that he repeats effortlessly. He already has solid command of all his pitches, and there is nothing to indicate that he might have control issues in the future. His three-quarters release point creates a nice angle to the plate, and his arm is loose and easy out front. Ross’ fastball is regularly in the 91-94 mph range and while it is fairly straight at present, he has the ability to spot the pitch well, especially on the inside half of the plate to righthanded hitters. His breaking ball is a low-80s slider that has good tilt and sharpness. He continues to develop his changeup. Ross has gone 3-4, 1.20 with two saves this spring and in 46 innings, he has walked just 12 and struck out 59. —David Rawnsley
San Francisco Giants
Andrew Susac – C
The Giants have drafted heavily for pitching in the last couple of years, and as noted in the Baseball Prospectus Top 10 prospect list, catcher Andrew Susac is the only position player who made the cut for the top 10. It certainly makes sense if you are going to go all in developing pitchers to acquire talented catchers to handle them, and Susac came to the Giants in the second round in 2011 with a first class resume.
He played with an immensely talented team at Jesuit High School on the east side of Sacramento that featured at least nine other players who received Division I scholarships, including his future Giant teammate, right-hander Martin Agosto. Susac led a 27-5 team that in hitting at .443-8-34 as a senior in 2009.
Susac attended the 2008 Perfect Game National Showcase and was an easy selection to that year’s PG All-American Classic. He especially stood out defensively, where he had a physical presence on the field with his strong and mature 6-foot-1, 190-pound build and his very advanced tools and skills. He popped 1.75 with 83-mph arm strength, and then threw 1.87 in game action to nail a runner. Susac also blocked and received the ball very well, showing soft hands and quick, fluid hips. Part of the Perfect Game notes from the event simply read “don’t run on!”
Susac’s swing and approach were a matter of much conversation and debate in the scouting community back then. There was no question about his bat speed, the way the ball came off his bat or his power potential. Those were all in the plus category. But like many hitters from the West Coast, and particularly from California, Susac had a very pronounced glide into contact and could often get too far out on his front side and off balance at contact. It’s one of those things that if the timing works it’s a strength for a hitter, and if the timing doesn’t work, it’s a negative. For Susac it worked far more than not but it was still a concern.
This was because he was already 19 years old and would be draft eligible after two years in college, and Susac was very firm in his commitment to Oregon State. The Phillies took him in the 16th round anyway and reportedly offered him $850,000 to sign.
A couple of times over the next two years passing on that money might have seemed easy to second guess. Susac struggled more than expected as a freshman for the Beavers, splitting playing time at catcher and hitting only .260-2-13 in 96 plate appearances. He came back strong as a sophomore, hitting .364-4-25 in his first 26 games before breaking his hamate bone and missing the next 16 games and being hampered in his swing the rest of the season. Scouts had seen enough during the first two months of the season, though, to secure Susac a spot in the second round and an above slot $1.1 million signing bonus. —David Rawnsley
Archie Bradley – RHP
The prospect origin story of Archie Bradley would have featured a narrative of how he was easily the best high school pitching prospect in the nation in his draft year, were it not for one remarkable coincidence. The fact that Bradley was born in the same year and grew up in the same area as fellow elite pitching prospect Dylan Bundy makes the script more interesting.
Bradley made his debut on the national prospect scene when he made the 2008 Area Code Games as a sophomore. While he showed impressive arm strength for his age and topped out at 88 mph, but it was when he returned to the Area Code Games in 2009 when he firmly established himself as an elite prospect in the class of 2011. It was there that he ran his fastball up to 95 mph, 22 months prior to becoming draft eligible.
All of this led to him being named the starting pitcher for the West squad at the 2010 PG All-American Classic, where Bradley struck out four of the six pitchers he faced in his near flawless two-inning stint.
Typically, a 6-foot-4 pitcher who touches 95 as an underclassman and can impart hard spin on the baseball goes on to be the top arm in the class, as was the case the following year with Lucas Giolito who featured a similar profile. But fellow Oklahoman and Bradley's summer teammate Dylan Bundy was showing the same kind of velocity and ability to spin the baseball at the same time.
While the comparisons to Bundy dominated the story about Bradley in the year plus build-up to the 2011 draft, there was a variable with far more significance to Bradley's draft stock. Bradley was also a highly sought after quarterback recruit who was a dual-sport commit to the University of Oklahoma who had planned to pitch for the Sooners in the spring and play quarterback for Bob Stoops' national powerhouse college football program in the fall. Another quirk about the 2011 class saw Bradley somehow not even be the slam dunk top dual-sport prospect, as Bubba Starling was also an elite two-sport recruit who was a likely top ten draft pick if he were willing to choose baseball.
Bradley did in fact want to play professional baseball and assured organizations of it. He also had a dominant spring which saw him lead Broken Arrow High School to their first state championship in 20 years. In the state championship game Bradley faced Dylan Bundy, who had pitched earlier in the playoffs and was in the lineup as a third baseman, striking him out in all three at-bats. Bradley would strike out 14 in a complete game shutout, topping out at 97 mph and getting swings and misses at will with his plus-plus low-80s curveball. A few weeks later he and Bundy were the first two high school pitchers selected in the 2011 draft. —Todd Gold
Chris Owings – SS
Owings grew up in a small South Carolina town (Gilbert, population 500) and was not a very high profile player heading into the summer of his senior year. That changed when he hit the road with the Diamond Devils, standing out first at the heavily scouted 2008 17u WWBA National Championship. Here are some of his notes from that event:
Smallish, ok frame, has some lean muscle, athletic. Good SS actions, quick hands. Sl open, smoked 2B down LF line, 4.36, goes after first pitch, good BS, rotational hitter, nice quick swing on pitch down and in, kept hands in well, compact and short to ball, + massive rotational power, quick to ball, explosive bat speed, + speed, HR 340ft., runs well, hustles.
Owings was listed at 5-foot-10, 165-pounds back then and the thing that stood out at the 2008 Area Code Games was the rare bat speed and power potential he had for a young player that size. It was also obvious that this was an athlete who could stay at shortstop for a long time.
Uses hands well hitting, good bat speed, quick hands, good balance, some pop for his size. Very smooth defender, + on routine plays, high level SS, should be immediate ACC/SEC starter or draft.
That surprising power and the ability to drive the ball was even more obvious playing for the Diamond Devils at the 2008 WWBA World Championship in Jupiter that October. The notes certainly acknowledge the speed and defensive ability, but the multiple extra base hits take precedence for the PG scouts.
Bat speed, swings hard, athletic look, even stance, gets barrel to ball, 11.56 to 3B, 11.83 to 3B, short stroke, fast hands, broken/shattered bat 2B to fence. Strong, can really run, nice safety bunt (safe), hit to RF warning track, stand up triple, can play, + arm at SS, smooth around bag.
Owings had signed with South Carolina but the Diamondbacks drafted him with the 41st-overall pick and signed him a week before the signing deadline for $950,000, $130,000 over the MLB recommended bonus for that slot. —David Rawnsley
Stryker Trahan – C
Stryker Trahan left about as good a first impression on the Perfect Game scouts as is possible. His first event was the 2009 Sunshine South Showcase in Brenham, Texas, just after the Louisiana native finished his freshman year at Acadiana High School.
To say he stood out with his barrel-chested, 6-foot-1, 205-pound build would not be an understatement. He looked like a senior All-State linebacker as a freshman. Then he went out and ran a 6.67, popped a 1.85 with 78-mph arm strength behind the plate and dropped bombs in batting practice.
From then on Trahan was a regular on the Perfect Game circuit, appearing in 18 events, many with the Southeast Texas Sun Devils, during his high school career, plus numerous other events such as the Area Code Games and East Coast Pro Showcase. Although he was an All-State football player on a state championship football team, Trahan’s baseball time or ability never seemed impacted by football. He was always a baseball first athlete.
Just as Trahan’s physical strength and athleticism stood out in a positive way, there were persistent flaws in his skills that kept him from being considered a truly elite level prospect for some time. Many were on defense. Although Trahan’s foot quickness and raw arm strength were very good, if not exceptional at times, he had trouble with his glove, both in receiving the ball cleanly and consistently and in game exchanges when throwing. Offensively, he tended to be overly pull happy at the plate, which resulted in the occasional majestic home run but more frequently in rolled over ground balls and empty swings on off-speed pitches.
Something clicked with Trahan in late July, 2011. He was part of the grueling 10-day coast-to-coast gauntlet of the East Coast Pro and Area Code Games and had the best 10 days of his baseball life to that point. He essentially discovered that there was a big open previously unexplored area in left-center field that he could hit the ball very, very hard to. And he did repeatedly, racking up five to six doubles and triples in those two events, most of them crushed with authority to that part of the field with a new swing approach. The national level scouts were sold and it was easy to see why with the rest of his tools. The concerns with his catching future remained, but the realistic option of a strong-armed right fielder with a big power bat came more into play as a backup. As a result, the Diamondbacks picked him with the 26th pick in the first round of the 2012 draft. —David Rawnsley
Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Seager – SS/3B
Corey Seager is the younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle, although the it's difficult to compare the two as Corey, at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, had a much more physical presence with the build of a modern-day shortstop even while in high school. Kyle, who enjoyed a successful three-year collegiate career at North Carolina, was taken by Seattle in the third round of the 2009 draft.
Both Corey and Kyle played at numerous PG tournament events for the dominant North Carolina-based Dirtbags program, as did a third Seager brother, Justin. Justin played for UNC Charlotte before he was drafted by the Mariners in 2013, while Corey was committed to play for South Carolina prior to being drafted by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2012 draft.
Corey's success at the 2011 PG National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. led to him being selected to play in the PG All-American Classic that same summer. Here's his report from the National:
Excellent physical build, square shoulders with tons of projection. Left handed hitter, big hand coil and wrap to start swing, generates very good bat speed, loose extended swing with lift, ball jumps hard, hand action creates length at beginning of swing. 6.85 runner, very good infield arm strength, plus carry on throws, accurate, third base future but all the tools to be a defensive standout. Outstanding student.
With that larger, square-shouldered build and plenty of room to add strength to his still-projectable frame, his size evoked the usual questions about whether he may out-grow the shortstop position and have to slide over to man the hot corner. Although that same size gave him excellent leverage and overall power potential to fit at third base if a move was, and is still needed down the road. —Patrick Ebert
Joc Pederson – OF
I had the pleasure of playing against Joc Pederson's father, Stu, in 1977 and 1978 while he was staring at Palo Alto High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, the same school that Joc attended. I attended Menlo School about three miles north along El Camino Real. Comparing a father and son as players is an obvious thing to do in this case, as they are very similar players with the same build, the same left/left profile and have roughly the same tools.
It’s worth noting that while Stu Pederson had only five plate appearances for the Dodgers in 1985, he was a much better player than that and could have played for many, many years in the big leagues under different circumstances. He spent all or parts of nine years at the Triple-A level spending all of that time with either the Dodgers or the Blue Jays, two of the most talented teams of that generation.
I saw Joc play at the 2009 Area Code Games before his senior year. It’s obvious from my notes that making a father/son comparison was appropriate at that time as well.
Very advanced hitter, + hand/eye coordination, busy in box, hand drop load, squares up hard to all fields, will go hard oppo, hitters hands, aggressive hitter who won't draw many walks or K. Dad got to ML's on bat and kid is better. BA OF arm but accurate, good range, uses speed well on bases. Ballplayer.
I was definitely wrong on the “won’t draw many walks or K” comment, as Pederson had 70 walks and 114 strikeouts last year as a 21-year old in Double-A, but the comparison between he and is dad seems like a good one.
Joc was committed to Southern California, where his father had gone, and reportedly told scouts that it would take a $1 million signing bonus to get him to turn professional. The Dodgers took a chance on him in the 11th round nonetheless. Southern California head coach Chad Kreuter was fired a week before the signing deadline and Pederson decided to go a different direction as well, signing with the Dodgers for $600,000. —David Rawnsley
Zach Lee – RHP
Zach Lee had one of the more interesting and winding roads to professional baseball than any other top prospect in the last decade or so.
There was no question that he was a primary football quarterback for most of his athletic development. Lee threw for 2,565 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior at McKinney (Texas) High School, and 2,935 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior. He was rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com and ranked as the ninth best quarterback prospect in the country, with a scholarship to Louisiana State to back it up.
His star receiver, who had an offer to Alabama himself, was also his teammate on the baseball field, Braves 2010 supplemental first round pick Matt Lipka. Lipka caught 55 of Lee’s passes as a senior averaging almost 25 years per catch and scoring 22 touchdowns.
Lee was a well-known pitching prospect leading into his senior year but threw infrequently on a national stage due to his football commitments and inconsistent raw stuff. His notes in the Perfect Game database from the 2009 Area Code Games, held well after Lee had started preparing for the fall football season, reflected this.
Looks smaller than listed, basic delivery, cross body release, works fast, pitches to outside corner with all pitches, good feel for off speed, mixes it up, H 3/4 with cross body looks awkward, hard to project stuff, SL will flash good hard spin and is best pitch, has an idea, good college pitcher but don't see out pitch for high level. FB: 87-89/90, SL: 78, Chg: 81.
As a high school senior, though, with football temporarily behind him, Lee’s stuff spiked. His fastball began working in the 93-95 mph range, touching higher, and his slider picked up similar power. Lee always had command of his pitches with the ability to mix it up and change speeds, and he was considered a consensus first round talent by the time the draft approached.
Lee’s situation with football complicated his signability understandably, especially as he was enrolling at summer school at LSU and Tigers head coach Les Miles was already talking loudly and often about how Lee could potentially play as a freshman instead of red-shirting. Most teams considered him unsignable.
Thus it was a shock to almost everyone in the scouting community when the Dodgers, at the worst depths of the Frank McCourt ownership crises, picked Lee with the 28th overall pick in the first round.
The immediate thought was that Dodgers had done what the Reds did in 2001 when they selected high school lefthander Jeremy Sowers with the 20th-overall pick even though Sowers was considered perhaps the least signable player in that draft. It was an ownership mandated pick engineered to not sign the player and therefore save the signing bonus money.
The second shock came literally minutes before the signing deadline in mid-August when Lee signed a $5.25 million deal to end his potential football career and play professional baseball. —David Rawnsley
Patrick Ebert is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Todd Gold is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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George Bissell is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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