The countdown is on: The MLB Amateur Draft is right around the corner. Injuries, signability concerns and some sub-par springs have shrunk the potential prep draft pool in the Prep Baseball Report coverage area to a minimum.
There’s not a lot to be excited about in the prep ranks, at least around here. That’s not to say the Class of 2012 is weak. Far from it. A ton of players will have extremely productive college careers, and will probably be good drafts in three years. But as far as top five-round guys are concerned, there’s not a lot out there in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
With that said, there are a handful of guys who should have their names called on June 5-6, but likely not on June 4, which is the televised first round.
Despite suffering a foot injury early this spring, which limited him to only one start, LHP Matt Smoral (Solon HS, OH) still likely will be the first to go in the PBR coverage area. The 6-foot-7 Smoral, who’s committed to North Carolina, was projected to be a solid first-round prospect prior to the injury. There’s still buzz that he will go in the top two rounds, given his foot injury isn’t a red flag. As is the case with all top-round guys, it will come down to dollars.
Big 6-foot-10, 260-pound RHP Taylore Cherry (Vandalia Butler HS, OH), once projected to be a sandwich-round/second-round guy, doesn’t have the same cache as he once had. Nevertheless, with his size and arm strength, he is certainly interesting. Scouts have said command has been the chief concern this spring. Cherry, too, is signed at North Carolina.
The wildcard in Ohio is 3B/OF Xavier Turner (Sandusky HS, OH), a 6-foot-1, 205-pound athlete who is signed at Vanderbilt. People I’ve spoken to seem to split on Turner; there’s not a lot in between. But the draft is not a democracy – all it takes is one to really like him.
One thing scouts seem to be unanimous on is the best prep hitter in the area: OF Nathan Mikolas (Bradford HS, WI). The 6-foot-1, 195-pound left-handed hitter proved at The Super 60 to be an elite bat, and he has only solidified his status this spring. Signed at Louisville, Mikolas had an exit speed of 99 mph. With wood, on a tee. Mikolas doesn’t have the tools like some other prospects, but his bat is that good. See for yourself, watch his video here.
Illinois usually heads the Midwest states in high school drafts. Not this year. Clearly the best option I’ve seen this spring is LHP Alex Young (Carmel Catholic HS, IL). The 6-foot-3 Texas Christian University recruit has an impressive repertoire of swing-and-miss pitches. The game I saw last Saturday, his fastball – which has wicked arm-side life - sat at 88-90 through six innings. He also throws a power 78-80 mph curveball, seemingly in any count, with considerable bite. At The Super 60, Young also showcased a power changeup with arm-side sink. This spring, Young’s ERA is in the 0.20 range. After seeing Young on Saturday, I pushed my chips in on him.
INF Kevin Ross (Niles West HS, IL) is similar to Turner, in that the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder possesses high-level tools but it all depends when you see him. Ross’s bat speed and arm strength are unquestionably impressive, as he showed at last August’s Area Code Games. Some people hypothesize that if a kid gets it done at Area Codes/Tournament of Stars – when all the shot-callers are there – then what the player does in the spring is almost immaterial. Ross, a University of Michigan recruit, will likely get drafted. The question is when.
Not a lot of buzz coming out of Indiana right now. Not sure why, because every time our Indiana director, Blake Hibler, comes back from a game, he saw another kid throwing 90. Nevertheless, the No. 1 prospect in Indiana, RHP Luke Stephenson (Triton Central HS, IN) is said to be a lock to go to Vanderbilt next fall.
RHP Mitch Patishall (Pendleton Heights HS, IN) is perhaps the hottest name of late in Indiana. The 6-foot-1 Cincinnati recruit was 90-92 in his last start, Hibler said, and has been dominant all spring. LHP Jordan Minch (Highland HS, IN) is a Purdue recruit who’s been up to 92 early in the spring. LHP Will Coursen-Carr (South Side HS, IN) is a powerfully built 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-hander who’s signed at Indiana University.
OF Bralin Jackson (Raytown South HS, MO) is the most prevalent name mentioned in Missouri. Like Ross, Jackson shined at the Area Code Games, where he showcased his plus athleticism and bat speed. Jackson, a Missouri recruit, has the high-end tools to keep him in the mix. Matt Fultz (Lee’s Summit West HS, MO), a left-handed hitting catcher, and OF Tate Matheny (Westminster HS, MO) have also been mentioned.
In Michigan, 6-foot-3, 195-pound RHP/3B Justin Alleman (Holt HS, MI) looks to be the premier prospect. In Pennsylvania, 3B Joe DeCarlo (Garnet Valley HS, PA) and RHP Karl Keglovtis (Nazareth HS, PA) have the most draft buzz.