On Wednesday, I spoke with a scout friend of mine who has done some extensive pre-draft scouting of college players in the Midwest. For job security purposes he needs to remain anonymous, but I thought you might be interested in some of his observations.
John: Of all the hitters you saw this year, who impressed you most and why?
Scout: The most impressive hitter I have seen this year is probably Barrett Barnes of Texas Tech from an overall standpoint. I'd pay to watch him take batting practice. He didn't perform to well in the series that I saw him though, missed at least 4-5 pitches that were big mistake pitches. However the two hits he had in the three-game series were absolutely smoked. He is the best overall hitter from this year I have seen when you combine the power and hit tools. Not as sold on him as other scouts about being able to hit for a very high average at the next level though.
John: What about the pitchers? Which one was your favorite and why?
Scout: Mississippi State's Chris Stratton was by far the best pitcher I have seen this year. He is about 6'3/200lbs but looks like he could really fill out more and nicely. Had plus arm speed, consistent mechanics, and throws all his pitches from the same slot. Here are the verbatim scouting notes I took about him:
Fastball-(has both 4 and 2 seam) sat 92-94 with the 4-seam and had natural arm side run. His 2-seam was 88-90 which had plus arm side run and downward life. Did a very good job of working both in/out and lived at the knees against both LH and RH hitters.
Slider- is his go to pitch. Sitting at 82-85, his slider has plus two-plane break and he can throw it with command as well as a strikeout pitch. He also does a very nice job of setting up this pitch, especially with his fastball.
Curveball- which he throws mainly as a show me pitch I believe has a chance to play up in the pro ranks if he can improve his command on the pitch. The curve has an 11-5 break and is sharp but used it mainly to keep guys honest and off balance.
Change- Another pitch that he really sets up well. Has a ton of late drop, and has good arm speed when he throws it. Mostly used it as an out pitch to left handed hitters but didn't hesitate to throw it against right handed hitters.
John: How do you see those two guys fitting into the draft? First rounders?
Scout: Stratton is a for sure a 1st round guy for me. The projections I have seen from both your site as well as others he is projected to be a late first rounder, but I would pop him in the top 15 based on the one game that I saw him. Add in the crazy numbers he is putting up in the SEC, I think someone is going to get a huge steal if he drops to the late 1st round.
Barnes is a guy I am not as confident in about being a 1st rounder. He has plenty of tools, but I am not sold on him being able to stick in CF. His arm is not even close to a big league CF arm. I don't think he could play CF at the AA level. He is going to have to be a LF at the next level. He has the power potential to stick there, but his hit tool really needs to catch up to the power tool. I see him more as a mid-late supplemental or early 2nd rounder. I have talked to other sources who share the same opinion as I do, and have talked to others who are high enough on him to where they would pop him in the 1st round.
John: Outfielder Tyler Naquin of Texas A&M has also been getting early draft attention as a pure hitter. How did he look to you? How much power can he develop?
Scout: Naquin had the best hit tool I have seen all year (quite a bit ahead of Barnes) with good speed to go with it. In regards to power, he has very little of it right now and I really don't see him grading out higher than a 35 power wise in the future. The body I just don't think has much pop in it no matter how much more he fills out. His swing is built to hit for average, which I think he will do right away in the pro ranks as well. Very quick hands and doesn't swing at pitches out of the zone. Seemed to always be in a good hitting count in the three games I saw him in and sprayed line drives to every field. Very impressed with the hit tool and think it will keep developing. Not as confident in the power potential though however to answer your question.
John: Did you see his teammate Michael Wacha? Do you buy him as an early first-rounder?
Scout: Wacha is another four pitch guy, who features plus velocity with his fastball which was 91-93 and flashed 95 twice. Located his fastball very well in terms of in and out, but didn't live down much at all with it. Mostly belt high fastballs that he got away with due to being able to paint the corners and having velocity good enough to have a lot of room for error at the college level. His curveball had a 12-6 break sitting between 74-77 and was his best pitch the day I saw him. Used it in any count and lived at the knees with it and also used it as a quality chase pitch.
Arm speed was also very good when throwing the curve. His slider was not impressive and he is either going to have to make very large strides with it or throw it out once he gets to the pro level. Wacha seemed to love his changeup and threw it to RH hitters more than I have seen in quite a while. It along with his curve was his out pitch to both LH and RH hitters. Lived low with the change and had good arm side life. Velo on the change was 80-82.
I wouldn't draft him early 1st round. His problems with commanding his fastball by living at the belt rather than the knees really bothered me. Along with the fact that I don't think his slider will play up very well at the next level, making him just a three pitch guy. If he could improve his slider or add something like a cutter that would be something that would make a huge difference and change my opinion on whether or not he is an early first rounder or not.
John: Andrew Heaney of Oklahoma State is another Big 12 pitcher who took a big step forward this year. What's your take on him?
Scout: Unfortunately the start I saw out of Heaney seemed to be his only bad one thus far this year. He was up with his fastball and had a tough time throwing it for a strike. His velo for his fastball was still there though, sitting 89-92, flashing 93 a few times with good arm side run. His slider, which is probably his best pitch he also didn't have command of the outing I saw. He could only throw it for a chase pitch and almost every one that he threw was in the dirt or below the knees. On the positive side however, the slider did have a good sharp break. He did not use his changeup that much, as he had problems controlling that too.
Other scouts I have spoken to about Heaney have been very impressed and see him as an easy early-mid first rounder, but I just did not see it out of him but my sample size is very small and I have no questions about his ability if he can still get strike outs without his stuff being anywhere close to where it usually is.
John: Can you name three sleeper prospects you saw who might be under the radar but who could be a positive surprise in pro ball?
1. Logan Vick, OF (Baylor) (JR) impressed me with the bat quite a bit. A L/R guy who has plus hands and stays in the zone and tracks the ball well. Has gap power right now to both fields, but his body looks like it will fill out more and I am confident in saying that he will develop more power in the future.
2. Hoby Milner, LHP (Texas) (JR) was a bullpen arm for Texas that sat 90-93 flashing 94 from the left side. Listed at 6'2 165, he has a frame that will fill out and could possibly add a few ticks on his fastball. Threw a slurve that had 10-4/11-5 break but did not throw it too much. Throws over the top, and was affective against both LH and RH hitters. I think that he will be a steal for someone in the mid-late rounds. I see him being a bullpen guy still at the next level that could go through an order more than once.
3. Kyle Matlin, RHP (Texas A&M) (JR) he's not really a sleeper but I haven't discussed him yet, and he was more than impressive. Currently the closer for A&M and has a submarine delivery but still sits in the low-mid 90's with his fastball even with the submarine delivery. Tons of downward life which is complimented by a sweeping slider. My opinion would be to get him throwing over the top again at the next level to add some velo to his fastball, that is if he can throw his secondary stuff from an over the top/ ¾ angle. Has the velo to be a potential back-end bullpen guy.