By Frankie Piliere & Kiley McDaniel
We’re now entering the homestretch for the MLB Draft as June 5th quickly approaches. Area scouts have compiled their lists and evaluations and are stepping aside as crosscheckers, scouting directors, and other top team brass come in to see prospects and form the help form the draft board.
And, as that process continues, the draft buzz develops as teams concrete their OFPs, pref lists, their handle on player’s bonus demands, and figure out which players make sense for certain picks. We’re starting to hear such team-specific buzz along with the usual risers and fallers and have compiled a piping-hot batch of draft buzz from our MLB sources.
Inside: A potential first rounder from off everyone’s radar, a landing spot for Skipworth, a new top college closer, Boras’ latest Hosmer demands, prep pitchers in free-fall, and much more…
(Pictured above: Kyle Skipworth after hitting a homerun in the AFLAC All-American Game in August. Photo credit: Glenn Connelly)
Breakthrough Small-School Flamethrower
RHP Brad Holt had been off the scouting radar, but has planted himself securely in the top 50 picks with a breakthrough performance this spring for UNC-Wilmington. The Seahawks have made a name for themselves this year with a 21-game winning streak and appearances in the top 25 polls, but Holt is reason scouts keep coming back to see this team.
As the Saturday starter for a veteran squad, the 6′4 junior RHP Holt has been taking a 94-97 mph fastball deep into games and has been flashing an above-average slider and average changeup with solid command. The only thing making scouts pause is the Holt’s prior history of command problems, but there hasn’t been a sign of it this spring.
Multiple scouts have agreed that he will not make it out of the 2nd round, and there appears to be helium for Holt all the way into the late first round.
Skipworth Has Home in Top 10
Florida State catcher Buster Posey has been generating a lot of buzz as a potential pick for teams in the 5-10 range in June, but we’re hearing similar things about California prep backstop Kyle Skipworth. A team in that same 5-10 range has confirmed heavy interest in Skipworth and almost guaranteed he would not get past their pick. Granted MLB draft season is home to smoke screens like NFL Draft season is, so some may take any information such as this with a grain of salt, but teams frequently lock onto players this early in the process that they really love and project to be at their pick. And given positional scarcity, Skipworth may not even last long enough for us to find out if this information is legit.
Closer Heirarchy Develops
Move over Ryan Perry and Josh Fields because their may be a new top closer in this draft class. His name? Andrew Cashner, a 6-foot-6 righty out of TCU. We’ve learned that Cashner has emerged as a top 20 overall candidate with a chance of even overtaking Georgia’s dominant senior, Josh Fields as the cream of the closer crop. This spring Cashner has posted a 7-2 record with 5 saves to go along with his impressive 53 strikeouts in 35.2 innings of work. The lanky righty has reportedly flashed a fastball touching 98 MPH in recent weeks. Remember this name on draft day.
We’ve been force fed the names Ryan Perry and Josh Fields as the slam dunk top closers in the class and they warrant that. However, there are other closers not quite in Cashner’s class that have a shot at the first round or early supplemental round due to the lack of starting pitching depth in the class. Bryan Price, the owner of a 94-97 MPH heater, and the closer for Rice is also getting late first round buzz. The same goes for Texas Tech right-hander, Zach Stewart.
Hosmer’s Demands Take Next Logical Step
What will Scott Boras think of next? How about a Major League contract demand for his prized high school hitting prospect? According to our sources, Hosmer and his agent may be seeking a big league deal. I can only imagine how this will shake up the complexion of the first round if these demands hold. $7 million with a big league deal for a high school hitter? I think most teams would pass.
Eric Hosmer is not the only position player in the class that could be slipping due to the demands of his agent. Lefty slugger, Allan Dykstra of Wake Forest (also represented by Boras) is also reported to have a steep asking price. What those demands are remains to be seen, but according to sources it could drive him out of the first round.
Prep Pitchers In Peril
Let’s cut to the chase. This is not a strong year for high school pitching prospects. There is a lack of depth and quite simply a lack of elite arms altogether. And, now it seems the few that were held in high regard entering the spring are running into problems as well. Fireballing left-hander, Anthony Gose reportedly underwent an MRI this week to check out a barking left arm. The severity remains to be seen but it has been enough to spook many a crosschecker.
Gose is also not alone. Boras clients Alex Meyer and Gerrit Cole have also been slipping on the radar amongst scouts not only because of bonus demands but other concerns. Meyer has yet to experience much pleasant weather to pitch in and there are lingering makeup concerns on Cole’s head. To say that the prep pitching class is in flux is an understatement.
Did you think I was finished? The biggest news comes on the purported top prep arm in the class, Tim Melville. This spring has been a significant disappointment for many scouts in regards to Melville. It is likely his first round status is still intact but according to one crosschecker “Melville hasn’t thrown close to his summer stuff.”
As it was first reported by Baseball America, Sonny Gray is likely to miss the rest of the spring with an injury, so that also doesn’t bode well for this prep pitching class. When asked if such pitchers like Brett DeVall, Kyle Lobstein, Robbie Ross could find a home late in the first round, one unimpressed scout said “I suppose some of these guys will have to go in the first round. Scary.” That, in a nustshell, seems to be the general attitude towards this year’s crop of high school arms.
Draft Notes: Lightning Round
- Brett Hunter and his first round aspirations seem to have evaporated as teams are proceding with caution regarding his arm injury. Do not expect to see him in the first 30 picks in June. According to scouts, the injury is a major concern.
- Looking for locks? Through some crosschecker cross-referencing (now there’s a nice phrase) there are only a handful of first round locks but it appears our sources agreed for the most part. Here they are: Pedro Alvarez, Aaron Crow, Gordon Beckham, Tim Beckham, Brian Matusz, Shooter Hunt, Tanner Scheppers, Buster Posey and Justin Smoak
- Pedro Alvarez may not be slipping so much after all. Perhaps he’s no longer the favorite to go #1 overall, but scouts have been strong in saying his stock has taken no significant hit this spring.
- Miami outfielder, Dennis Raben and his back problems seem to be becoming more and more a concern for teams as well. However, scouts still like his chances of going in the 20-30 range in the first round.
- How about some news on our two top college southpaws? Christian Friedrich and Tim Murphy seem to be headed in opposite directions. Murphy, who at one point this spring seemed to be gaining momentum as potential first rounder, has taken a step back. Scouts we spoke to have come away less than thrilled with his command and consider him to be more of supplemental rounder. Friedrich on the other hand, we are hearing, is being targeted by teams in the 18-24 range in the first round.
- Players seemingly with helium right now (outside of the ones mentioned above) are Jemile Weeks, Roger Kieschnick, Zach Collier (who one scout called “the sleeper of the draft”), and Zach Putnam.