Scouting The MLB Draft – The Cape Cod League All Star Game

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Late last month the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League held their annual All-Star game, undoubtedly my favorite scouting event each summer.  Unfortunately for the third consecutive year I was unable to make the trek to Massachusetts, but luckily Fox College Sports televised the game, allowing me the chance to evaluate the top prospects on Cape Cod.  This year’s contest was a surprising 8-0 bludgeoning by the West over the East – these are my scouting notes on several prospects that stood out during the game.

Kevin Smith        SS           University of Maryland                 Yarmouth-Dennis

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Perhaps my favorite prospect in next summer’s draft, Smith has rebounded from a disappointing sophomore campaign (.259/.308/.409) to make the All-Star team representing Yarmouth-Dennis.  Smith was impressive in this game, making several nice plays defensively and flashing above-average arm strength.

Offensively he showed good speed in his first at-bat, going home-to-first in 4.22 seconds in nearly beating out a grounder to shortstop.  Later in the contest he pounded a 90mph fastball opposite field for a long line drive out, easily one of the hardest hit balls in the game.  In his final two at-bats he struck out both times, showing the biggest present weakness in his game.  Nevertheless, Smith shows 4 easy average or better tools, and if a team believes in the hit tool, he projects as a potential Day 1 selection in the 2017 draft.

Gunner Leger     LHP        University of Louisiana-Lafayette             Wareham

Entering the game in the Bottom of the 2nd, Leger immediately caught my attention for his “80” name and prototypical 6-3 200lbs pitcher’s frame.  Leger retired the side 1-2-3, needing only 10 pitches to get those 3 outs.  In this brief outing, Leger showed his entire 3-pitch arsenal, featuring a 90-93mph fastball with arm-side movement, a 79mph changeup with excellent arm speed and a sweeping 77mph slider with some tilt.  With excellent size and the potential for 3 average or better offerings, Leger profiles as an easy top-100 selection next summer.

Garrett Cave      RHP        Florida International      Hyannis

Cave entered the game in the 7th and quickly caught my attention with his simple delivery, impressive 6-3 200lbs projectable body and how easy the ball left his hand.  Cave pitches exclusively from the stretch, portending a future as a reliever.  Cave needed 17 pitches to strike out all three batters he faced, showing off a 94-98mph fastball with movement and a hammer 81-82mph curveball with plus potential.  The fact that he profiles purely in relief is the only knock I see, as he has a simple motion and the potential for two plus or better offerings.  Cave is another intriguing collegiate pitcher in the 2017 draft class.

Short Hops

Old Dominion rising junior SS Zach Rutherford (Hyannis) stood out during the game, making several highlight-worthy plays.  Defensively he showed a solid arm and quality range, making several nice plays deep in the hole.  Also, in the 2nd inning, Rutherford took a low-and-away fastball deep to right field for an opposite field home run.  Later in the 4th inning Rutherford showed above-average speed in beating out an infield single.  A middle infielder with obvious tools, Rutherford has a chance to be a top-5 round pick next year.

It was a pleasant surprise to see two George Washington Colonials playing in the event, their first CCBL All-Stars since 2005. Senior RHP Eddie Muhl (Cotuit) entered the game in the 4th inning and looks ominous on the hill with a thick 6-4 225lbs frame.  Muhl was clearly struggling with his command, but showed an 89-91mph fastball with excellent arm-side movement and one 81mph changeup with heavy sink.  He is a pure reliever, but with the way seniors are presently valued in the draft, Muhl could be a top-10 round pick next year.  Later junior 2B/P Robbie Metz (Wareham) entered the game but was unfortunately hit by a pitch in his only at-bat, though he did come around to score for the West.

Scouting The MLB Draft – The 2016 Under Armour All-America Game

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Saturday afternoon, in an effort to avoid this oppressive heatwave, I stayed indoors to watch the Under Armour All-America Game to begin preparing for the 2017 MLB Draft.  Under Armour partners with Baseball Factory to bring 40 of the best prep prospects in the country to play this annual exhibition contest at Wrigley Field in Chicago.  Many of these players will be selected early next summer, making this a must-watch for any draft nerd.  Unfortunately intense lightning halted the game twice and terminated it after only 7 innings – Nevertheless, several prospects still stood out during the contest.

Hans Crouse      RHP       California HS

Serving as the starting pitcher for Team National, Crouse immediately passes the eye test at 6-4 185lbs with significant projection remaining.  He was obviously struggling with the big stage early, needing 31 pitches to complete the 1st inning: fortunately Crouse rebounded in the 2nd, needing only 9 pitches to retire the side.

Crouse features an active delivery with plenty of extraneous movement, which likely hinders his command and control.  Over these two innings, Crouse flashed a 91-94mph fastball with excellent life and arm-side movement, which he located to both sides of the plate.  In addition Crouse showed a low-70s curveball with depth and impressive 12-6 action.  He only threw 1 curve in the 1st, instead relying on his fastball, but dropped a few hammers in the 2nd inning.  He did not throw a changeup in this outing, but reports have him possessing a credible cambio as well.

Committed to USC, it would be a bigger surprise than Omar’s death in The Wire if a major league team did not sign him away from college.

Hunter Greene  RHP       California HS

The starting pitcher for Team American, Greene is a well-built 6-4 200lbs right-handed pitcher with a powerful, well-developed upper body.  Greene needed only 7 pitches to record three outs, giving a quick glimpse into his abilities.  He owns a fast, almost spastic, delivery with plenty of movement above his waist.  Greene’s fastball was sitting 96-98mph with late life, along with a 77-80mph breaking ball with impressive downward movement.  Committed to UCLA, his lightning-quick arm and immense potential gives him little chance of escaping the 1st round next June.

Jordon Adell      CF           Kentucky HS

Perhaps the top 2017 prep position prospect, Adell is an sleak-looking athlete, listed at 6-3 185lbs with projection remaining.  A right-handed hitter, Adell has noticeably fast hands, obvious bat speed, and the ability to recognize spin.  He has home run power, as evidenced in the home run derby, although his swing currently has some excess length.

Defensively Adell has above-average or better speed and a powerful throwing arm, as he has been clocked at 92+ mph on the radar gun in the past.  Scouts profile him as a sure-fire center fielder as a professional and he projects as an above-average to plus future defender.

There are some questions on his hit tool, but Adell has obvious five-tool potential and profiles as a potentially above-average 2-way center fielder.  Committed to the University of Louisville, Adell is yet another player unlikely to play collegiate baseball.

Heliot Ramos    OF          Puerto Rico HS

Easily the most impressive hitter in this year’s event, Ramos is a thick 6-2 185lbs athlete and one of the few players in the event without a college commitment.  A right-handed hitter, Ramos has healthy bat speed, lithe wrists and a mature approach in the batters’ box.

His first at-bat immediately caught my attention, as he patiently worked a 2-2 count before punishing a changeup to deep right field for a triple.  He showed easy raw power, nearly hitting an opposite field home run , along with above-average speed running the bases.  Next in the 4th inning he ripped a 95mph fastball into center field for an RBI single, showing he can handle professional velocity.

In his final at-bat, Ramos worked back from an 0-2 count to get to 2-2 before pounding a 92mph fastball over the left-center field wall for a home run.  Sure the wind and humidity aided the distance, but it still easily cleared the 368 foot marker.  Ramos finished the day 3-3 with 3 RBIs, 2 runs scored and a double short of the cycle.

Unfortunately I did not see him do anything noteworthy defensively, meaning I cannot judge two of his five tools.  That said the three tools I did observe (hit, power, speed) all looked to have above-average potential.  The brother of Boston Red Sox catcher Henry Ramos, I expect Heliot to join him in professional baseball next summer.

Short Hops

Although the results were lacking, Georgia HS DL Hall possesses a live left-handed arm with a solid 3-pitch mix, showing a 91-94mph fastball, an upper-70s changeup with fade and a mid-70s curveball with above-average potential.  A Florida State commit, Hall would be an impact freshman for the Seminoles if he reaches campus.

Catcher MJ Melendez showed off a cannon-like arm in the 2nd inning, posting a 1.87 second pop time on a perfect throw to second base on a stolen base attempt.  Just that throw in front of dozens of scouts should get him drafted inside the top-5 rounds next year.

Prospect Talk with Adam McInturff from Baseball Prospectus

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Similarly to my recent piece “Quoting The Experts”, last week I reached out to Baseball Prospectus’s prospect team member Adam McInturff to get his general thoughts on the MLB Draft and the top Nationals selections.  During our conversations, Adam was sending me these wonderful scouting notes, which I thought were too good to keep for myself.  So with his permission, here are some of Adam’s thoughts on recent Nationals draft picks Carter Kieboom, Dane Dunning and Nick Banks.

Carter Kieboom

“The Nationals selected Kieboom with the 28th pick, the first of their back-to-back selections in 2016. A lean, tapered 6-foot-2 and 180-some pounds, there’s no doubt he will add strength to his frame as his body matures. He’s currently at shortstop, and while he has good hands defensively, he’ll probably outgrow the position–hopefully growing into more power and a true third base profile. One of the purest swings of any prep hitter in this class, Kieboom stays inside the ball well with a fluid, quick path to the ball. He shoots line drives all over the field, showing the backspin to allow projection on his home run power. If he adds strength and continues to develop offensively, Kieboom’s ceiling looks like that of a regular left-side infielder.”

Dane Dunning

“Dunning was another college arm who moved up boards with strong late-season showings, throwing well both in the SEC Tournament and the Gainesville regional the following week. The Gators have an embarrassment of riches on the mound, so much so that Dunning—a potential first-day pick—didn’t even crack their weekend rotation, stuck behind early picks A.J. Puk, Logan Shore, and Alex Faedo (2017 eligible). As such, Dunning was relegated mostly to bullpen work as a junior in 2016, where he’s been a multi-inning super reliever for Florida. His strikeout and walk rates both improved in shorter stints—where he showed his stuff is enough to overwhelm hitters working out of the bullpen—but has the tools to transition back into a starting pitcher’s development path once he signs professionally.

A wiry 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, with long arms and a tapered lower-half, Dunning shows a consistently above-average sinker and slider. His fastball is an extremely heavy pitch, with turbo sink, tunneling down in the zone to his arm-side. His slider flashes solid-average tilt in the 82-84 range. His delivery finishes fairly loosely, and on-line, and he’s able to keep both offerings around the zone. Dunning could be a sleeper in this draft class due to not pitching in the highly-scrutinized Gators rotation, with the best-case ceiling of a middle-rotation starter, possessing the sinker to be a groundball machine. If the move to the bullpen ultimately winds up fitting him better down the road, he demonstrated this season that both his fastball and slider are quality pitches.”

Nick Banks

Banks had a lot of buzz coming off the Cape, I actually had a lower role 50 and a Chris Coghlan comparison on him coming out of the summer. He dinged his wrist right before his JR year started and it really slowed up his bat to start the year. As a result, Banks wasn’t the type of guy with plus statistical performance who gets those points in draft rooms, but he did pick it up by season’s end. More of a hitter than a power guy, but I think it’s the ceiling of a heady 4th outfielder for a good team–maybe at best a starter on a corner for a bad team–and he’s going to out-perform his round.

Neither of them have light-the-world-on-fire tools, but it will be fun if we get to see Banks and Andrew Stevenson in the same outfield. Maybe at Harrisburg or Syracuse. They’re both kind of that ‘good little player’ mold the Nationals like from college (Max Schrock).”

Special thanks to Adam for generously sharing his thoughts: Please follow him on Twitter @WAdam_McInturff and read his work at Baseball Prospectus.

Armchair Evaluation – Washington Nationals 1st Round Pick Dane Dunning

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Mere days after being selected in the 1st round, 29th overall, by the Washington Nationals, University of Florida right-handed pitcher Dane Dunning found himself on the mound in a deciding game against Florida State, with the winner going to Omaha and the College World Series.  Eager to see what type of talent the Nationals added to their organization, I decided to do an Armchair Evaluation of Dunning’s recent outing on June 13th.

Due to the depth of the Florida pitching staff, the 21-year-old Dunning has spent most of his 3 years in Gainesville starting for the Gators during the midweek and pitching in relief on the weekend.  However, he would serve as the Friday starter for approximately 90% of college teams and would pitch in the weekend rotation for every other team besides the loaded Florida Gators.  Prior to this season he struggled with his command and control of the strike zone, but made major strides as a junior, posting 85 strikeouts against only 12 walks in 75 innings pitched this season.

Against a stout Florida State lineup, Dunning entered the game in the 4th inning in relief of A.J. Puk and pitched 4.1 innings, allowing 0 runs on 4 hits and 0 walks against 5 strikeouts.  Dunning needed 67 pitches to get these 13 outs (47 strikes & 20 balls), getting 5 fly outs and 3 ground outs.

The 6-3 205lbs Dunning has an ideal pitcher’s frame with some projection remaining, especially in his lower half.  He features a semi-windup with a high leg kick, giving him excellent momentum and extension toward home plate.  Dunning throws from a three-quarters release point and has noticeable arm speed.  He has a relatively clean, simple motion with excellent balance and repeats the delivery well.

In this appearance Dunning showed an impressive 3-pitch arsenal, featuring a 91-95mph fastball (according to the television radar gun) with extreme movement to his arm-side.  In fact, several times I misidentified his fastball as a changeup because of the extreme movement and sinking action.  Additionally, Dunning showed an impressive 78-84mph slider with 12-6 movement, which induced several swings-and-misses.  Finally he threw two mid-80s changeups with some sinking movement resembling his fastball, and shows promise due to the 10+mph separation.  Dunning shows average or better command and control of the strike zone, along with an aggressive attitude toward attacking hitters.  Overall, I would put a “60” or better on the fastball, particularly due to the movement, a “50/55” on the slider and an “Incomplete/45” on the changeup.

After watching this appearance by Dane Dunning, I find myself rather fired up that the Nationals were able to select someone of his talent at pick #29.  He pitches extremely well off his fastball, an easy plus offering, and his slider was more impressive in this outing than it was by reputation pre-draft.  He will need to refine both his off-speed pitches if he wants to be a starter, but the potential exists for Dunning to have a plus fastball and two average to above-average off-speed pitches.

Assuming he stays healthy and can strengthen his arm for the rigors of pitching 180+ innings per season, Dunning projects as a strong #3/#4 starter, with the floor of a late-inning reliever.  Considering his high floor and reasonably high ceiling, Dunning was an astute pick by the Nationals at the end of Round 1.