WTNYFebruary 27, 2006
College Baseball Revisited
By Bryan Smith

In college baseball, rankings are obsolete nearly the minute they are compiled. Since the season is so short, with pitchers only having a limited number of outings each season, scouting directors don't have long to evaluate players. As a result, every weekend, draft boards are changed to reflect the weekend's happenings.

With that being said, I was thrilled when Sports Illustrated approached me with the opportunity to write an article for their On Campus College Baseball Preview. My top 20 draft prospects article ran Friday, preceding yet another weekend that would go far in making me look dated. However, my heart and soul is poured into this article, as I researched, interviewed, and read in detail to prepare. My top 20:

1. Andrew Miller - LH SP - North Carolina
2. Max Scherzer - RH SP - Missouri
3. Ian Kennedy - RH SP - USC
4. Drew Stubbs - OF - Texas
5. Daniel Bard - RH SP - North Carolina
6. Matt LaPorta - 1B - Florida
7. Dallas Buck - RH SP - Oregon State
8. Wes Hodges - 3B - Georgia Tech
9. Evan Longoria - IF - Long Beach State
10. Joba Chamberlain - RH SP - Nebraska
11. Jared Hughes - RH SP - Long Beach State
12. Kyle McCulloch - RH SP - Texas
13. Brandon Morrow - RH SP - California
14. Blair Erickson - RH RP - UC Irvine
15. Mark Hamilton - 1B - Tulane
16. Brad Lincoln - P - Houston
17. Mark Melancon - RH RP - Arizona
18. Chad Tracy - C - Pepperdine
19. Brennan Boesch - OF - California
20. Matt Antonelli - 3B - Wake Forest

This final ranking was decided on weeks ago, and even since, my draft board has been changed. Of note, Evan Longoria, Joba Chamberlain and Brandon Morrow are the largest climbers. Longoria has continued to show the power he displayed over the summer, making him one of the top two hitters in the country. Chamberlain has zoomed right past Dallas Buck, especially since Baseball America reported his fastball hit 96 mph against NC State. Finally, Morrow is continuing to strike out batters at a torrid pace, though his six walks in six innings this past weekend are a cause for concern.

I mentioned Buck as someone who has dropped, as even against Brigham Young on Thursday he has not turned the corner with a great outing. His 2005 was built on a great non-conference record, so Dallas really can't afford to start slow out of the gates. I have also been disappointed with Mark Hamilton, who has not shown the power out of the gate that I expected. It will come, and I still think my Ryan Klesko comp applies, but he has slipped a bit. And finally, in talks with Rich Lederer, I realized that Jared Hughes and Brad Lincoln should really swap places.

Andrew Miller has not shifted at all, instead, he has only helped his status as the 'player to beat' atop draft boards. Miller has shown much improved control this season, walking only two batters through his first two starts. It also should be mentioned that in his Sunday start yesterday, there was only one out that Miller recorded that was not a groundball or strikeout. Yes, you should be drooling.

In fact, North Carolina is a team worth talking about. My pick for the 2006 College World Series title has stormed out of the gates to an undefeated record, albeit to a fairly weak schedule. Yes, they started hot last year, coming out 9-0 to begin the year. However, during that 2005 spree, the offense was averaging just 6.4 runs per game. Flash forward to 2006, and UNC is 7-0, but has scored 84 runs for an average of 12 runs per game. While most of my focus is on juniors at this site, it should be noted that Josh Horton makes quite a strong case for being the first shortstop drafted in 2007.

Speaking of 2007 hitters -- as offensive players will obviously be back on the map by then -- there has been no bigger story this year than NC State third baseman Matt Mangini. While the sample size police are surely on their way to arrest me, it is safe to say the best hitter in the country thus far (through 50 AB) has been Mangini. In a lineup that already features insane firepower from the likes of Aaron Bates and Jon Still, Mangini is hitting an insane .680/.730/1.080 this season. Not the most athletic player in the nation, Mangini will go as high in the draft as his bat takes him. Right now, that is pretty damn high.

Another ACC team that impressed me this weekend was Wake Forest, where Mr. Irrelevant (number 20, above) Matt Antonelli plays third base. The Demon Deacons, in the past plagued by a lack of pitching, threw well enough to get upsets of Missouri and Florida en route to an undefeated weekend. Antonelli wasn't fantastic, but continues to impress me with his discipline-upside combination.

Getting away from the top twenty, another noteworthy team -- and a surprising one at that -- has been Hawaii. The Rainbows entered the weekend 9-2, winning series over San Diego State, UC Irvine and Loyola Maramount before hosting USC this past weekend. The Trojans stumbled in Honolulu, dropping the first two games of the series before saving themselves from the sweep on Sunday. Hawaii is led by (a bit of a sleeper) in Friday night starter Steven Wright, another solid contributor from the Cape Cod League. In four starts already, Wright has pitched 29.2 innings, giving up just 15 hits and five walks while striking out 27 batters. He bears watching.

While Wright didn't garner a lot of consideration for the top twenty, there are a lot of other players who did. As I generally do with rankings, below are my eleven honorable mentions (displayed alphabetically) for the top 2006 draft-eligible prospects:

Chris Coghlan - 3B - Mississippi - Saber-friendly third baseman with limited upside.
Colin Curtis - OF - Arizona State - Future leadoff hitter with every tool but power.
Jason Donald - SS - Arizona - Good power, bad contact skills, shortstop. Decent package.
Chris Errecart - 1B/OF - Cal - Started in Cape Cod League, continuing to show power.
David Huff - LHP - UCLA - I fell in love with Huff last summer. I know why.
Brian Jeroloman - C - Florida - Best pure college catcher in junior class.
Tim Lincecum - SP - Washington - Do numbers speak louder than scouts?
Chris Perez - RP - Miami - A step below other closers, but second round arm.
Shane Robinson - OF - FSU - '05 Golden Spikes finalist does everything well.
Josh Rodriguez - SS - Rice - Very good power, no patience up the middle.
Brett Sinkbeil - SP - Missouri State - Cape Cod League guy with good live arm.

Again, rankings are only as good as the date in which they are compiled. With each weekend as we inch closer to June, performances become more and more important. As was the case with Lance Broadway last year, a few dynamite starts in May can go a long way towards turning someone into a first round pick.

This spring I will try to update my personal draft board often, trying to reflect the times when breakthrough performances happen. Thanks go out to Sports Illustrated for making me stick out my neck for the first time.


Somebody fill me in on Morrow. Why he keeps ranking high is a mystery to me. The minors are full of busts who throw smoke and have no control. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in 2005 it looked like he had an ERA over 9 and averaged nearly 7 and a half walks per 9 innings.

I don't care how good a guy's stuff is - you can't have walk numbers like Morrow put up in 2005 and he's still looking shaky on control.

Somebody fill me in on the story. Because "Great stuff, he'll be awesome if he gets control" doesn't sound like a reason to draft a guy in the high in first round - it sounds more like the epitaph written on hundreds of baseball careers.

Brandon Morrow is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA in three starts this year. His pitching line for the young season is as follows:

  IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
17.1   9   4   2   9  22

Morrow was a Cape Cod League All-Star last summer, striking out 24 batters in 14 2/3 innings while recording a 1.84 ERA with three saves. His fastball touches the mid-90s, and he can also throw a split-finger, slider, and change-up.

The Cal right-hander is just 21 years old. Scouts feel as if pitchers with stuff can develop command in due time, whereas those with command have a much more difficult time developing stuff. Either you have the right stuff or you don't. Obviously, the best pitchers have both. But finding guys who have MLB-quality stuff and command out of college is rare indeed.


I actually made a comment regarding Morrow in the SI article that was ultimately edited out, regarding Morrow's similarities to Joel Zumaya. The two are of the same build, and in ways, face the same problems. While the pitches don't exactly match up, it's that fastball that originally brought me to compare these two.

Zumaya found his way onto the prospect map in 2003, when he stormed through the Midwest League. It was there that he could use his fastball velocity to overpower hitters, and his need for great control or secondary stuff wasn't great. This hurt him in the FSL, where players were more apt to take a walk or lay-off his fastball. This forced Zumaya to improve his fastball control as well as his secondary stuff, which is responsible for breakout in 2005.

I see Morrow in a similar light to how I did Zumaya in 2003. The potential is there, the skills are there, his focus just needs to be in the right place.

I have a question regarding signability and representation.

Every year, a few Scott Boras clients fall a few spots lower than they would based on talent alone. Weaver, Teixeira, Drew, Pelfrey, Hochevar, Brownlie, Guthrie, ect. It seems like every year one of his clients slides a least a few slots.

I know that Ian Kennedy is represented by Boras. Are there any other players who he is representing that may slide down a bit? And are there any others whose demands might cause teams to pass them up?

I am a Mariner's fan, and am wondering if top guys like Miller or Scherzer might drop a bit due to signability. And could we see another guy absolutely plummet, like Hochevar last year?

I got out to the Rice/Nebraska game on Saturday....According to the gun on the scoreboard Joba hit 96 as late as the 5th inning and was consistantly in the 92-94 range.

Incredible pitching match-up between him and Degerman....19 combined strikeouts and only 2 walks....

So far this season I've seen Chamberlain (Nebraska), Savery (Rice; twice), Andrew Carpenter (LBSU), and Kyle McCulloch (texas) and I was most impressed by Carpenter....although some of that might be because I went in with a little bit less expectation.

I'm really looking forward to mid-March (March 17th to be exact) when Missouri comes to College Station so I can see Max Scherzer pitch.

oh one more thing....I think I read about this over at BA....Rice's Josh Rodriguez hasn't been playing in the field. In their first game against texas he made a gem of a relay throw to cut down a longhorn at the plate but apparently felt some discomfort in his elbow. He has been DHing and PHing since then.

Congrats on the SI gig, Bryan! I'm very happy for you.

Rich and Bryan, thanks for the heads-up on Morrow. I think what took me most by surprise were the mock drafts (getting more outdated by the day) compiled working without these 2006 numbers.

Baseball America had Morrow going #14, I believe. I believe Rich said that finding good stuff and good control in a pitcher is difficult to do. That may be true, but just from past experience, it seems, without any newer numbers to work with, you wouldn't project a guy who, in 2005 had a 9.36 ERA, averaged nearly 11.5 hits per 9, more than 1 home run per 9 innings (though perhaps more a function of just the massive number of hits he was giving up), and 7.20 walks per 9 innings, to go #13. Look at past drafts and the pitchers who have gone in the mid-teens - at least through numbers they seem to show better control and equal or near equivalent stuff to Morrow. 7.20 walks per 9. That's just too high of a number that I'd give someone a free pass on based on faith.

Here's another mock draft:


This one lists Morrow as going to the Cubs at #13. That seems like a poor match, as the Cubs have not had the greatest results when it comes to good-stuff-no-control pitchers.

The Zumaya comparison is an interesting one, but Zumaya was drafted when he was 17, and his walk ratio has stayed fairly consistent at nearly every level. Morrow seems a little old to make a quantum leap forward in his control, doesn't he?

I don't doubt he's capable of doing what you say is he is, and the new numbers bear this out. But when these drafts were compiled, the 2005 college season stood out, and you usually don't see college pitchers with those numbers or the poor control go so high in the draft.

But I do understand the reasoning better now.

You might want to take a closer look at Andrew Carpenter out of Long Beach St. Plus stuff with plus-plus command, he is getting way more play than Hughes from scouts out west and may end up in the first round somewhere