2010 Draft Class Update

April 15, 2010

Despite spending my days and, more often, nights toiling away on the DPG (which is approaching a Bruce Campbell level of awesomeness), Adam was nice enough to let me out of the Project Prospect Secret Moon Base so I may inform you of all the latest draft goings on.

Any discussion of the 2010 MLB draft begins with Bryce Harper. Harper is currently hitting .422/.516/.891 with 15 jacks in 155 plate appearances. Harper’s swing mechanics lead some to wonder about his ability to hit for a high average. The 17-year-old has struck out in 16.1% of his trips to the plate, while walking exactly as often. Considering that he's at least two years younger than virtually all his competitors and that he’s playing in a wooden bat league, Harper’s production is extremely impressive. There are also questions about his ultimate defensive home. Harper has spent the majority of his time catching for the College of Southern Nevada but has also seen action at third base, right field and even patrolled center field. Sometimes knocked for his size, Harper has shown terrific athleticism, swiping 12 bases in 14 attempts, and he can kill a yak from 200 yards away with mind bullets.

Some have theorized that Harper, a Scott Boras advisee, could slide on Draft Day due to signability. But why would a kid get his GED and attend Junior College in order to be eligible for the draft a year early, if he didn’t intend on signing? The Nationals were able to come to an agreement with Strasburg last year. Harper may not get as much as Strasburg given the extra developmental time needed and the historic risk of young catchers. Mike Rizzo always seems to take the best player available. As things stand right now, I would be very surprised if Harper doesn’t end up in our nation’s capital.

LSU Friday night star Anthony Ranaudo missed a good deal of time early in the season, dealing with an elbow injury. Now back in action for the eighth ranked Tigers, Ranaudo has shown solid stuff but has been limited to a strict pitch count. His fastball sat 90-91 mph when I saw him vs. Tennessee (March 27) and touched 93 mph with his trademark downhill plane. Ranaudo’s mechanics are still smooth and, I believe, make him a lower than average injury risk long-term. It is important to note that many other things go into injuries other than just mechanic efficiencies and that a pitcher of ‘below-average’ risk is still likely to visit the DL in his career. I haven’t heard any firm word on what the elbow injury actually was. I imagine that any team interested in Ranaudo will have the 6-foot-7 right hander spend some quality time with team doctors.

Former University of Kentucky star and potential first round pick James Paxton has decided to go the Indy League route after loosing his NCAA eligibility during negotiations with the Toronto Blue Jays, who selected Paxton 37th overall in last summer’s draft. Unlike Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar and Max Scherzer, Paxton will not suit up for the Fort Worth Cats. He instead signed with the Cats’ cross-town rival the Grand Prairie Air Hogs, managed by former big leaguer and college hall of famer Pete Incaviglia. Paxton, a lefthander, boasts a fastball that sits 92-94 mph with late life and can touch 97 mph as well as a wipeout slider which projects as a potential plus pitch.

Bryce Brentz went 0-1 with a strikeout in a mid-week tilt against in-state rival Vanderbilt. This one at-bat was entirely unremarkable save for the fact that Brentz made this pinch hitting appearance with a broken foot. The Middle Tennessee star outfielder had missed the past two weeks with a fractured ankle but still hobbled up to the plate with the tying run on in hopes of pulling off his best Kirk Gibson impression. While Brentz’s at-bat ended much less dramatically, no one can ever doubt his competitiveness or toughness. Ever.

While the pool of college position players is generally thought of as lacking athletic/high upside prospects, a few players offer both athletic projection and solid production. Virginia Tech’s Austin Wates is one of the more interesting and confusing prospects in this draft class. Standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 180 pounds, Wates is a speedster who Head Coach Pete Hughes calls, “the best athlete I’ve ever recruited”. Wates is hitting .416/.503/.648 this season and has walked in 11.5% of his plate appearances and struck out in just 12.2%. Despite seeming to possess the necessary athletic ability, Wates hasn’t played much center field this season, spending most of his time at first base. Wates’s power potential is average, at best, and would be a poor fit at first base in the pros. Even as a corner outfielder it’s hard to figure where Wates fits in.

Leon Landry has drawn several natural, and frankly lazy, comparisons to Jared Mitchell, his former teammate at LSU. Both are lefthanded, center fielders with good speed and football player builds. While Landry doesn’t have Mitchell’s power ceiling, he has shown the ability to make contact, something Mitchell struggled with greatly. Currently sporting .345/.438/.558 line, Landry has struck out in just 7.3% of his plate appearances while drawing free passes 12.4% of the time. Landry’s defensive abilities in center field were the reason the Mitchell rarely saw action in the middle of the diamond last year. Landry has a chance to be a line-drive hitter who gets on base and has good defensive value. If a team believes there’s more power in there than he’s shown so far this spring, he could hear his name called in round one.


Follow Lincoln on Twitter @LHamiltonPP or shoot him an email at LHamilton@projectprospect.com.