Baseball BeatSeptember 22, 2006
The Prospect Maven Returns
By Rich Lederer

Have you wondered what Bryan Smith is up to these days? Well, my former partner has been busy selecting his Top 20 prospects in the Pioneer League. Bryan's picks can be accessed at Subscribers can also read the man behind WTNY's scouting reports on all 20 players and participate in a chat with him at 3 p.m. ET.

Here is a sneak preview of Bryan's top 5:

1. Bryan Morris, rhp, Ogden (Dodgers)
2. Josh Bell, 3b, Ogden (Dodgers)
3. Hector Gomez, ss, Casper (Rockies)
4. Sean O'Sullivan, rhp, Orem (Angels)
5. Gerardo Parra, of, Missoula (Diamondbacks)

Morris was the 26th pick overall in the June draft. Here is what I had to say about him three months ago in Live Blogging the 2006 MLB Draft:

26. Los Angeles Dodgers: Bryan Morris, RHP (Motlow State CC, Tenn.)

Callis correctly tabbed this pick in his Tuesday morning mock draft (although he later moved him all the way up to the Dodgers' first pick at #7). Morris may not be as well known as many college pitchers because he played for a community college in Tennessee. However, he earned Freshman of the Year and Pitcher of the Year honors while fashioning a 10-1 record with a 0.82 ERA, which included a no-hitter vs. Southwest Tennessee and a four-hit, complete-game shutout with 14 strikeouts vs. Hiwasee in the playoffs.

Morris is my type of pitcher. The 6-3, 200-pound RHP has a plus fastball and a power curve. Moreover, the freshman recorded 122 Ks in 88 IP (12.48 K/9) and induced nine groundouts (and only two flyouts) in that Hiwasee shutout last month. He was drafted in the third round by the Devil Rays out of high school last June. The two sides supposedly agreed on a $1.3 million bonus that greatly exceeded the slot money, but the deal was never consummated due to an inability on the part of ownership to pull the trigger. Morris chose to attend Motlow State and join his Dad, who is the assistant coach, for one year.

Without seeing him pitch before, I'm still going to give Logan White a big thumbs up on this draft pick.
Posted by Rich at 2:53 p.m. ET

As it turns out, Morris' stats (4-5, 5.13 ERA, 1.74 WHIP) weren't all that impressive this year. However, he struck out 79 batters in 59.2 IP (11.92 K/9) and only allowed three home runs (0.45 HR/9). He has good size and plus stuff. Like a lot of rookie pitchers, it appears as if he needs to work on his command more than anything else.

John Manuel named his top 20 Arizona League prospects and Alan Matthews did the same for the Gulf Coast League earlier in the week. The Dodgers and Angels are faring quite well to date. Bryan listed Bryan Morris as the #1 prospect in the Pioneer League on the heels of Angels catcher Hank Conger (Arizona) and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (Gulf Coast) getting the nod in their respective leagues.

With respect to the latter, the following comments are excerpted from our draft coverage in June:

7. Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP (H.S./Dallas)

Kershaw was the first high school player chosen in this year's draft. Highly coveted by the Dodgers, he got past the Tigers because Andrew Miller was still available when Detroit's turn came up. The 6-4, 215-pound LHP had a 13-0 record with a 0.77 ERA in his senior season. He has reportedly touched the mid-90s with his fastball and has a plus curveball. Improved mechanics have contributed to better command. Given his height, handedness, stuff, and track record, Kershaw has one of the highest ceilings among all draftees.
Posted by Rich at 3:25 p.m. ET

Kershaw was as good as advertised in his professional debut. The 18-year-old dominated the short-season GCL this summer, fashioning a record of 2-0 with an ERA of 1.95 and a WHIP of 0.89. He whiffed 54 batters in 37 innings (13.14 K/9) and walked only five hitters (for a K/BB ratio of 10.8). Furthermore, the southpaw did not give up a single home run among the 28 hits allowed.

For more on any of these (or other) prospects, be sure to check out Minor League Baseball's improved stats pages (which now include splits and recent game logs).

Oh, and don't forget to stop by and say "hi" to Bryan this afternoon.


Yeah, I loved Bryan Morris specifically, and I'm a fan of taking JUCO pitchers as well... I had hoped the Padres would nab him at #35 (but I don't think they were on him anyway). Nice get by our upstate rivals.