Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scouts chat draft

Today, we push the envelope for baseball geekness.

Below you'll see a smorgasbord of comments from major league scouts appraising the recent draft, West Coast-leaning. If you'd rather read a lawnmower manual, West Coast Bias' feelings will not be hurt.

History shows that most players taken even in the top few rounds fall well short of stardom. Dozens of others among this year's top-100 will tumble after climbing the six-step ladder to the big leagues.

Another hitch in the giddyup is that baseball draftees, relative to NFL and NBA draftees, are anonymous. A month ago, WCB could identify Joe the Plumber but not Joe Ross or Joe Panik, soon to be taken in the first round by the Padres and the Giants. Our scouts, conversely, could tell you about the girl Joe Ross took to his prom in Oakland, or Panik's course of study at St. John's University.

Over the last several months, these scouts watched scores of games and workouts, hustled to airports, chatted up dozens of baseball people, pored over video clips, filed countless reports and ate too much fast food. Yet the draft conducted June 6-8 was only a beginning. Some players will forgo a signing bonus and return to school. Others may hold out for more money and sign with an independent league club. Some pitchers who sign may be mothballed until the fall. Others players such as Panik and Corey Spangenberg, the Padres' first pick, have already signed and soon will play in minor league games.

The comments below come from six scouts, five employed outside of the Padres. Naturally, WCB cared most about teams in the West. At the bottom, two from the Evil Coast get attention.

Padres

Players discussed: Florida junior college 3B/2B Cory Spangenberg, selected 10th and signed; Oakland prep RHP  and UCLA recruit Joe Ross, 25th;  Orange County prep catcher and UCLA recruit Austin Hedges, 82nd.

"If the Padres sign Hedges, that'd be a hell of draft," one scout said. "He's the real deal behind the plate and might hit."

"Signing Austin Hedges would be like signing a top-5 talent," said a second scout. (UPDATE: Top-5 seemed high for a player whose bat is iffy. Pressed on it, the scout said: "Top 10. Best high school catch-and-throw guy I have ever scouted."

"Hedges is a typical Scott Boras-represented guy, so you're shooting in the air on whether you sign him," a third scout said. "But that's what you've got to do there in San Diego. You can't not spend in the big leagues AND not spend in the draft, too. Every year you should strive to get a guy that's unsignable. That's what Toronto did way back. That's what the Marlins try to do."

Fourth scout: "Very polished. Very advanced defensively. The bat is just iffy."

Ross

"Clean delivery and I love his athleticism. You go see Joe Ross play shortstop, you say, 'If I'm a college guy, I'm recruiting him.' He's got feet, he's got actions. That athletic part of pitching is very important in projections. Athletes get better."

"Ross has now velocity -- 90-95 -- but you're just going to have to wait for the breaking ball. It's in there."

"He's going to be a big, physical kid."

"Ross just started pitching like a year and a half ago. People were smart -- they didn't push him into it."

"In the past, he had something going on with his arm but it was nothing at the time to be concerned about."

"I think the Padres sign him even with the UCLA commit. His dad e-mailed scouts, letting them known when Joe was pitching."

"He hasn't pitched a full summer. Got tons of rest this year, made me wonder about whether they were protecting his arm. There will be an adjustment there. Pro instruction will help. Is he mentally tough?"

Spangenberg

"This guy can be a batting title contender. That guy, he can really hit and he can really fly."

"Defensively, he'll be fine at second base. A lot of people think he's a little rough at third."

"He's a gamer. Has the makeup, the grind. Focused. Very explosive body. Throws average. OK actions. Can really hit."

"He can hit."

Diamondbacks

Players discussed: UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer, third; Oklahoma prep pitcher Archie Bradley, seventh; Coastal Carolina RHP Anthony Meo, 63rd.

"Arizona had a huge draft. Quality pitching."

"I would've taken Bauer over Gerrit Cole (another UCLA junior righthander, drafted first by the Pirates)."

"Bauer has a lot of energy and is a character. Bauer is going to be good for baseball."

"They got one of the top three high school pitchers in Archie Bradley."

"Bradley, the area guys were all disappointed in this guy early in the year, said he was lazy. Didn't come out in great shape. I saw him when he broke loose--outstanding."

"If someone told me Bradley was a makeup risk, I'd buy into it."

"I love Bauer. He's a guy, for sure. I don't think there's any question Bauer is going to pitch in the big leagues. Bradley, toward the end of year, he was fabulous. I think they did real well."

"Meo is going to be a power reliever."

Giants 

Players discussed: St. John's SS Joe Panik, 29th, signed; Oregon State catcher Andrew Susac, 86.

"Their draft was sneaky good."

"San Francisco was kind of vanilla in the first round with the St. John's shortstop."

"Panik, I thought, was a very under-rated player. Good-body middle infielder that ought to stay at shortstop. Should really hit. Gamer, just doesn't have big tools. The throwing is average, the running is on the bubble, but he has instincts for the game. Baseball player pick."

"I was a little suprised the Giants took the St. John's guy in the first round, because he had labrum surgery as a freshman there. He is supposed to be a good player."

"Panik is the kind of guy who has to overachieve."

"Panik -- definitely one of the better hitters in the draft.  Not real quick twitch. I thought that was an extremely safe pick for the first round. We thought he was a guy who could stick at shortstop but probably would end up at second. He definitely can hit."

"Susac, he's going to be a feast or famine guy. Has pretty big power, has arm strength. Yet to be seen if he's going to be a good catcher. It depends on if he wants to show up every day or not. Moody kid. Turned down $900,000 out of high school. "

"Susac, this past year, it was almost a role reversal for him. He was more offense than defense. Has a lot of raw power. Has arm strength. To me, his catching has regressed, not from a physical standpoint, almost a mental standpoint."

Dodgers

Players discussed: Stanford LHP Chris Reed, 16th; NC State catcher Pratt Maynard, 103; former San Diego State RHP Ryan O'Sullivan 134th; University of Oregon RHP Scott McGough, 164th.

"Bland draft."

"They certainly didn't wow me."

"The Stanford reliever (Chris) Reed was a little bit of a surprise in the first round. He's got first-round stuff. He throws hard. He's big. Physical. He's got a decent slider, but, he's just never really been a starter, and from people who've seen him start, he's gotten his butt kicked. But he's got three pitches."

"Reed, I had him in the third round."

"I liked the reliever the Dodgers took. That could turn out real good. He's an interesting guy. We thought maybe he would be a starting pitcher. He's got a changeup. He just doesn't get to use it coming out of the 'pen.''

"The catcher out of North Carolina State is OK. Thick body. Generic arm. Not a lot of power."

"We weren't on O'Sullivan. Big arm. But if you can't stay eligible at San Diego State, c'mon."

"I like the reliever they got out of Oregon. Saw him good. Very athletic."

"It looks like Logan White doesn't have much money to spend."

Rockies

Players discussed: University of Oregon LHP Tyler Anderson, 20th; Texas prep SS Trevor Story, 45th; New Jersey prep OF Carl Thomore 77th.

"Tyler Anderson is a poor man's (Barry) Zito. He carved up college baseball."

"We liked Tyler Anderson. He's a competitor, he's a battler, he's not a big bat-misser. He's not a soft-toss lefty by any means, either. He competes his ass off, He's strong. He's athletic. For that park, a little surprising pick."

"Trevor Story had a bad look on defense when I saw him. His swing and approach looked pretty good. Defensively, my gut said this isn't what a shortstop looks like." 

"Our question was does he stay at shortstop?"

"Carl Thomore is very athletic. Starting from scratch in the outfield. A rough steelworker kind of guy who doesn't look half the athlete that he is. Has raw power."

"Thomore, I really liked that kid. He's interesting. Big and physical and strong. Has an awkwardness to his game. Kind of a high school version of Hunter Pence. This kid is very strong. Has a lot of raw power." 

Mariners

Player discussed: University of Virginia LHP Danny Hultzen, second.

"The Mariners talked a lot about taking the Rice third baseman (Anthony Rendon) and they liked him a lot. We like the guy they took. It's tough to take Rendon there because you don't know about his shoulder injury and Boras controls the medicals."

"Hultzen, I hear his dad has like more money than all of the clubs."

"Hultzen may be the best pitcher in this draft. He is really a good pitcher. We really like him a lot."

"Hultzen probably had the best feel to pitch of any of these guys in the draft. The only negative is he's a little bit different because he's got the lower slot. He can get a little sweepy with his breaking stuff. He may need to be a little more upright. Slot is a little low."

"Hultzen was first one to write a letter and tell major league baseball exactly how much money he wanted. Family is very wealthy. He wants $13 million and four semesters of school paid for, and he's not going to pitch this summer. Blah, blah. He's not getting $13 million."

Etc.

The Mets' choice of Wyoming prep CF Brandon Nimmo 13th overall created a stir. The pick was made by Paul DePodesta, the former Padres exec hired last offseason by former Padres CEO Sandy Alderson. "I applaud them picking Nimmo," one scout said. "He could be an All-Star." Nimmo's  medical file dropped him from one club's first-round consideration...Regarding the Rays, who made 10 picks in the top-60, one American League scout said, "They got a lot of guys, but it didn't really wow me."

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