The draft is drawing ever closer and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo published his updated Top 100 prospects list for the 2013 MLB draft. There are lots of lists, lots of draft experts, lots of blah blah blah and to call anyone an expert regarding how the draft will go is silly. Mayo is an office, he has a phone, he calls GMs, crosscheckers, scouts, agents, etc. He is contacted by agents who want to push up their own clients, etc. He has video he can watch and the more anyone watches something, the better they can be at analyzing it.
I say all of that because as a former scout, I always giggle when I watch TV and see guys from Baseball America and MLB.com and wherever else, presented as experts, as though they were the ones out there driving around, finding and evaluating the players, breaking down the tools, getting the signability, getting to know the make-up of the players, etc. They get the results of all the work scouts do and by the time they are on TV talking about it or on the web writing, the thousands upon thousands of players scouts sift through are funnelled to a couple hundred the draft talking heads write and talk about. It's pretty easy by that point.
Anyway, because I don't have my own prospect list (unless you are interested in Petaluma American Little League's AA division of 7-9 year olds), I too read what guys like Mayo write. I used to write and do my own rankings with Team One and Perfect Game USA, so I do enjoy seeing lists because they are at the very least, interesting. Especially so for those of us who live in fertile prospect areas like Northern California.
On Mayo's Top 100 list are 13 players who are within the typical territory for a scout who covers Northern California. That territory generally goes north to the Oregon border, south down to Monterey, over toward Coalinga and Fresno, some go as far south as Visalia, then north and east to cover Northern Nevada. A few might still cover Bakersfield as well and some might sneak down into San Luis Obispo.
So, who are those players in this area? Here you go..
#1 Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford - Appel is a former participant in my event and I also had the pleasure of having him on one of my Braves scout teams. Great kid, great talent, hope he goes #1 overall.
#13 Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada - Shipley had a great sophomore year for a Nevada team that really overachieved, well, that's what I thought. Then I realized that Shipley was not only a good college pitcher, but also a high end prospect with a good fastball (reported to be up to 98 mph).
#24 Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno State - I liked Judge when I was still scouting, but at that time I hadn't seen much of him as a position player, but rather as a pitcher. Well, he's put the pitching aside and is a highly regarded prospect due to his tools, size, speed, power, etc. Tall hitters are tricky though, there are lots of moving parts and generally I'd call tall and toolsy hitters a boom or bust type of prospect. Think Michael Taylor and John Mayberry... rather than Dave Winfield. Mayberry is a solid MLB contributor, Taylor seems to be a AAA player and of course, Winfield is an all-time great.
#27 Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford - A very similar profile to Judge, though his tools are not as big as Judge. Wilson has big power, though we likely haven't seen the best of it because he has to fit into the "Stanford" style of hitting. Wilson has a nice college career and if he has a pro career like Taylor or Mayberry, two players who went to Stanford, then I'd say he was quite successful. I was never a big fan of Wilson's hand speed or swing trigger as a hitter and I question his ability to hit the fastball at the pro level. If he can learn to cheat to the fastball, he could survive... until about AA when the offspeed stuff improves and exposes guys who cheat to the fastball.
#45 Alex Balog, RHP, San Francisco - Yet another USF product who kind of burst on the scene, though Balog was well regarded out of high school. Balog also played on a scout team of mine and is a good kid, a kid I root for. He has a fastball that is in the low-mid 90s and the potential for a wipeout slider. He uses a cutter now but I can see that cutter becoming a slider in pro ball. He's big and strong and as a former water polo player he likely has a very strong shoulder capsule.
#54 Matt Krook, LHP, St. Ignatius Prep (SF) - Krook looks the part and has the stuff to back it up. However, look deeper into Krook and you learn some things that make drafting him as a pitcher and as highly as his talent suggests he could go, a very iffy proposition. First of all, he signed with Oregon because he was told he will be given the opportunity to hit and pitch... hitting is important to him. High school kids with the ability to hit don't like to give that up, nor should they. He has good raw power, he can hit and frankly I question if he really likes pitching. From what I've observed of him and also have been told by a few coaches who have been around him a lot, I have reason to question that. He also melted down late in the draft season in front of big collections of draft decision makers. That happens, to be sure, and a bad outing shouldn't crush a kid. He's very very talented... VERY! But if I was still scouting, in my notes I would be very clear to my boss that if you want to take him based on talent, go ahead, but make sure you understand the full picture. I'd advise my boss to let him go to college or let another team draft him out of high school as a pitcher. These are MY opinions, offered by me only.
#68 Andrew Knapp, C, Cal - A switch hitting catcher with an above average arm, good athleticism, good baseball genes and a track record of performing in the Pac-12? Yep, sign me up, I like Knapp and I think he will thrive in the pro game.
#73 Carlos Salazar, RHP, Kerman HS - Salazar is a thick, strong, power right-hander with a chance to really develop the fastball and a plus curveball at the pro level. He is a tenacious competitor too, evidenced last year at Bay Area World Series when he insisted on pitching even though he was battling a leg issue during the summer. His stuff was good but his command was off that day, but I could see that he had the goods to be a very good pro prospect. He signed with Fresno State but that likely won't affect his signability much. He was up to 93 at BAWS but reportedly has touched 97 this spring.
#82 Brian Ragira, 1B, Stanford - Ragira came to Stanford after standing out at the Area Code Games and as a talented Texas high school player. I for one thought he'd end up as an outfielder in college and never doubted his ability to hit, not with his great bat speed and really loose, lively hands. He got an opportunity at 1st base early in his Stanford career and has stayed there since. His body, once very lean and loose and athletic, has thickened up as he's matured, making him look more like a 1st baseman than the centerfielder I thought he'd be. I'd definitely agree with anyone who thinks he is the better hitter and prospect than his teammate Austin Wilson. His hands are better and he's a much more natural hitter.
#83 Jordan Paroubeck, CF, Serra HS - Paroubeck is a switch hitting centerfield who not only LOOKS the part, but he has TOOLS. On top of his physical presence, his tools and his skill, Paroubeck also scores highly on the make-up part of the equation. He reminds me of a Will Venable type of player, with power and speed and the chance to be an above average outfielder. Like Salazar, he signed with Fresno State. I had a chance to coach a team with Paroubeck, at the NTIS tourney in Cary (NC) a couple of falls ago. Great kid, really enjoyed being around him, very humble, hard working, respectful, hard nosed and gracious. EASY kid to root for.
#92 Dom Nunez, C, Elk Grove HS - Nunez was a highly recruited middle infielder when he verballed and evenually signed with UCLA. However, he has moved to catcher where his bat stands out that much more and his overall baseball skill and IQ really serve him well. He was a pretty sure bet to get to UCLA as an infielder because his tools aren't outstanding, rather, he was seen as a good player, one who would play in college and then be drafted. However, as a catcher, his profile changes.
#97 A.J. Vanegas, RHP, Stanford - Another Stanford player (why are they not very good this season?), Vanegas has been on the radar of scouts since high school. He has always had a good fastball and that is still the case. Command was a big question out of high school and it is still a question, which pushes Vanegas into the category of reliever, rather than starter. His stuff rates with almost any pitcher in the country so a team that really likes his stuff and thinks they can refine his mechanics to get more command out of him could take him earlier and see if he can develop as a starter. Astros RHP Bud Norris was another high school and college "thrower" with good stuff who made a nice transition to starter in pro ball and Vanegas could do the same thing.
#99 Ryan Tellez, 1B, Elk Grove HS - The scouts have been spending a lot of time at Elk Grove games, and they initially were led there by Tellez, a powerful left-handed hitter. Tellez isn't pretty to look at, he doesn't have the physique that excites scouts, but he can hit and as long as he hits, with left-handed power, THAT is what matters. I've seen his name written as Rowdy Tellez but I just can't bring myself to call a high school kid Rowdy. Sorry, just can't do it. He signed with USC, which can be a pricey school for MLB teams to buy kids out of. Then again, USC isn't exactly the Mark McGwire or Randy Johnson USC anymore so perhaps it won't be as difficult as it used to be.