It’s not really going out on a limb to say that I think Bryce Harper could be pretty good. However, despite what some people would have you believe, the 2010 MLB draft will contain more than one player, or even one round.
While the odds of any prospect turning into a solid MLB player are fairly low and those odds drop off severely after the first 50 picks, or so, there are always talented players who aren’t drafted highly. Here are a few guys that I feel have a shot of providing good value for whichever team drafts them after the first round.
The following players are prospects likely to be drafted beyond the first round (50th overall) and are listed in no particular order.
Cody Stanley, C, UNC Wilmington
Miami backstop Yasmani Grandal went in the first 15 and prepsters Kelin Degland and Justin O’Conner were both swooped up later in the first round, along with Minnesota catcher Michael Kvasnicka to kick off the supplemental round. But catching is always in demand and Cody Stanley has what it takes to be a good big leaguer. Stanley is an outstanding athlete for a college catcher (13 for 15 stealing bases) and is a smooth receiver behind the dish with solid arm strength. Despite having a solid defensive upside, Stanley may be an even better hitter.
After hitting .332/.427/.605 as a sophomore in 2009, Stanley has posted a nearly identical .323/.438/.540 line in 2010 with a stunning 42:23 BB:K ratio. The UNCW Seahawks play in a slight pitcher’s park (96 PF according to BoydsWorld.com) so Stanley’s power plays up a little bit. One concern about Stanley is the lack of high caliber competition UNCW faces, but Stanley hit .299/.409/.443 in the 2009 Cape Cod League.
The competition for the third college catcher off the board is pretty wide open. LSU’s Micah Gibbs, Texas’s Cameron Rupp and UC Riverside’s Robert Brantley are all good prospects and could go in just about any order. But if a team could get Stanley in the 3rd or 4th round, they will get an equal, or superior, talent at excellent value.
Sam Dyson, RHP, South Carolina
A tenth round pick of the Oakland A’s last June, Dyson (pictured above) returned to college in hopes of boosting his draft stock. Seen as a potential first round talent, Dyson slipped due to below-average command and an injury history.
Dyson’s fastball sits 92-95 mph and has touched 97 mph and his slider has deep two-plane break making it a potential plus offering as well. While he hasn’t totally dominated the SEC this spring, Dyson’s walk rate is just 4.8% and he's still whiffed 24.5% of the batters he's faced.
Dyson was forced to take a medical red shirt in 2007 as he dealt with an injury to his labrum, but he's seemed fully recovered for some time. His lack of a quality third-pitch may force him to the bullpen but Dyson could provide a quick return on investment and good value should he fall out of the top 50 again this year.
AJ Kirby-Jones, 1B, Tennessee Tech
Kirby-Jones has become sort of a trendy sleeper pick and a quick glance at his stat line tells you why. Kirby-Jones is hitting .388/.531/.859 with 26 home runs and 58 walks in 275 plate appearances. Despite producing elite power and walk rates, Kirby-Jones does have a fatal flaw: contact. He has struck out in 19.3% of this plate appearances this year, showing very little improvement from the 20.7% whiff rate he posted in 2009.
However the rest of his offensive game has been so good, if that one (large) area can just be made adequate, Kirby-Jones could be a fantastic draft choice. If not, I still want him on my slow-pitch softball team.
Rob Segedin, 3B, Tulane University
In a draft thought to be short on hitters, Rob Segedin is as good a pure hitter as anyone in college. Segedin broke onto the prospect scene after a solid freshman season (.322/.414/.485 with a 30:27 BB:K ratio) but a back injury limited him to just five games in 2009 and forced a medical red shirt.
Now fully healthy, Segedin has crushed college pitching to the tune of .434/.516/.788 with 33 BBs and 20 Ks. Segedin makes hard contact as consistently as any college hitter in this draft. He's not an elite athlete and has below-average range defensively at third base. He does have a strong arm, and has seen time on the mound for the Green Wave. While he may not have much defensive value, and could need to move to first base or a corner outfield spot, Segedin can really hit. I’d take him over Arkansas 3B Zach Cox right now and not think twice.
Gauntlett Eldemire, OF, Ohio University
A toolsy but slightly unrefined college product, Eldemire is capable of doing just about anything on a ball field. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 195 pounds, Eldemire has the size and strength to hit 20+ home runs and the speed to show plus range in center and be an asset on the base paths. The bugaboo with Eldemire is contact ability, as he has stuck out in 19.1% of his plate appearances this spring.
Eldemire has plus speed, above-average power and has even posted above-average walk rates (12.8% this year). If his contact ability is just decent, he could turn into a very good player. His physical ability and upside make him an intriguing choice in the 3rd or 4th round. Plus, how do you bet against a guy named Gauntlett Eldemire?
Todd Cunningham, OF, Jacksonville State University
Cunningham gets overlooked at times because he’s a small school guy without huge tools. Cunningham is a steady, high-floor prospect with a solid all-around skill set. Cunningham proved he can hang with the big boys in the 2009 Cape Cod League, hitting .378/.458/.500.
An extremely well-balanced hitter, Cunningham may not have much more than average power but should be an above-average hitter. His bat doesn’t profile as the ideal corner masher, but Cunningham is a plus runner (21 for 23 stealing bases) and should be able to hold down a solid center field. Other players on this list will have higher upsides, but Cunningham is very likely to reach his potential as a slightly above-average everyday player.
Phil Wunderlich, 3B/OF, University of Louisville
Standing six feet tall and 225 lbs, Wunderlich is as strong as any college hitter in this draft. He has one of my favorite combinations of talents for a young hitter, elite contact and plus power. Currently sitting on 20 home runs for the spring, Wunderlich has struck out in just 5.4% of his plate appearances. He doesn’t walk much, 7.2% in 2010, but that’s about the only thing Wunderlich doesn’t excel at offensively.
Wunderlich is a better athlete than you might think by looking at his thick frame and is 12 for 15 stealing bases this year. He doesn’t have elite range at third but played a passable left field as an underclassman - when former 2nd round pick Chris Dominguez was still holding down the hot corner. While there are some who feel that Wunderlich will have to move off of third, he’s not the kind of guy who's going to give up easily.
Wunderlich is universally praised for his outstanding character, work ethic and toughness. In addition to putting in the extra work to learn the outfield, having never played there before, Wunderlich plays the game with a hockey player’s mentality. He played in the 2009 Super Regionals with a torn labrum and rotator cuff. On April 7th, 2009 Wunderlich got hit in the face by a pitch, breaking his nose and orbital bone in his face. Doctors had to wait several days for the swelling to go down before performing surgery. With that down time, Wunderlich decided to keep playing. Back in the lineup two days later vs. Pittsburg and playing with a protective cage on his helmet, Wunderlich hit the game-winning three run homer. He wound up only missing one game, despite his face being broken.
Andrew Clark, 1B, University of Louisville
Andrew Clark may have the best approach at the plate of any college hitter. He has walked over 17.5% of the time in each of the past two seasons while striking out less than 9.0%. In a draft filled with uncertainty, I feel confident saying that Clark will get on base.
Drafted by the Brewers out of high school and the Cubs last year, Clark is certainly known among scouts. The 6-foot-3, 220 pound first baseman hasn’t shown as much power as you’d like for someone of that profile. But power is generally the last thing to develop for a quality hitter and Clark, a senior, may still be developing. Clark has shown increased power this spring, posting a park-adjusted IsoPower of .324.
A below-average runner with an above-average arm, Clark could stand a move to a corner outfield spot but he does draw good reviews for his smooth glove work around first base. Whichever team grabs Clark in the mid rounds this June will do so because of his offensive potential. While he isn’t the prototypical first baseman with light-tower power, he could turn into a very solid all-around hitter.
Cody Bucknel, RHP, Royal HS (CA)
Bucknel gets dinged because he’s built like Roy Oswalt or Tim Lincecum, but last time I checked those were two pretty good pitchers. While he lacks the physical projection of others in the draft class, Bucknel is very polished for a high school hurler. He’s shown the ability to throw his fastball, curveball and changeup all for strikes – a rare, and valuable, talent. Each of those three offerings has the potential to be an above-average pitch. His fastball has touched 92-93 mph, working a few ticks lower, his curve is a mid-70’s offering with above-average break and Bucknel has pretty good feel for his changeup. He has also flashed a usable slider.
Bucknel is able to generate big-league stuff despite being on the small side for a professional athlete because of his efficient mechanics. He takes a huge stride and generates a lot of force with his lower half. His arm is quick and loose, as he releases the ball from a high 3/4 angle.
Undersized right handed pitchers generally don’t go in round one, but it’s hard to see a pitcher of Bucknel’s talent getting past the second round. Wherever he goes, Bucknel is as good a bet as any prep pitcher to provide value beyond round one.