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Casing the States: Texas, Part Three

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It's been a week since the first two parts of my second state covered in Casing the States, but it's time to get back to the state of Texas. You can find part one here and part two here.

This installment covers 15 more names to learn, from Keyes to Pinckard, so follow the jump to dive right in.

Kevin Keyes, OF, Texas
Keyes has been fairly well-known on the prospect scene for awhile, and he was a 26th round draft pick of the Rangers coming out of Connally High School in 2007. He didn't play much of a role during his freshman year, but he really turned some heads with an impressive sophomore year with the Longhorns. However, he imploded on the Cape, looking tired after a long season that included a trip to the College World Series. He ended up gaining weight, leading to a temporary assignment to first base in the fall. However, he's back in right field now, and he seems to have gained back some of the athleticism he lost over the last year-plus. He features above-average raw power and a fringe-average hit tool, and when he's at his best and in shape, he's an average runner. However, he's going to be a corner outfielder at any level, but he has a big enough arm to handle right field, while having average range. He's not having the best season, but he's still an attractive prospect, especially in a thin college class. Projected Draft Range: 3rd-6th Round

Jared Lakind, LHP/1B, Cypress Woods HS, Cypress
Lakind is from a fairly new baseball program in Cypress Woods High School program, having only been in existence for three years. He's been on each of the first three teams, and his career really took off last summer, when he was an AFLAC All-American. He was particularly impressive in the Area Code games and in Jupiter in October, though it wasn't until this spring that his pitching career took off. Previously a mid-80s thrower with inconsistent peak velocities, he's consistently been in the upper-80s this spring, touching 91 almost every time out. That, combined with a potentially plus curveball, has given him plenty of notoriety. However, he's still considered an offensive prospect, too, and he'll be a two-way player if he continues his career in college at Arkansas. He features an above-average package of power and hitting ability, and he could be a .290 hitter with 20+ home runs in his peak years at the plate. He's a well below-average runner, which likely limits him to left field if a team wants to move him off first base, where he could be more valuable. He obviously has a plus arm, and he could make a heck of a left fielder if a team works with him on routes, as he's a first baseman currently. He could easily turn out to be a first round candidate for the 2013 draft after three years in college. Projected Draft Range: 5th-10th Round

Zach Lee, RHP, McKinney HS, McKinney
Along with Tyrell Jenkins, mentioned in Part Two of the Texas Casing the States series, Lee has moved up as quickly as anyone in the entire state. A strong, projectable arm, Lee has taken a major step forward with his stuff and command, but it's only made the elephant in the room get bigger. That elephant is a football scholarship to be an LSU quarterback. Scholarships to LSU to play baseball are hard enough to break, but buying out an LSU quarterback might be a challenge not worth attempting. However, Lee has turned enough heads that a team might risk it given his stuff. His fastball is a plus pitch already, sitting 91-94, touching 95. He has above-average command of it, which is a pleasing new development. His breaking ball is a potential plus slider that could use some work, but he has excellent feel for it, and given his step forward in command, he's expected to master that pitch. He has some experience with a changeup, too, which is a plus, though it's rudimentary at the moment. If it weren't for the two-sport commitment, Lee's name would be popping up more for first round consideration, but as it stands, he's more likely to land on campus with anything less than a multimillion dollar bonus. Projected Draft Range: Late 1st Round - 10th Round

Joey Leftridge, OF, Howard JC
Leftridge is a rare hitting prospect in the Texas junior college ranks this year. In fact, Leftridge represented the only returning regular position player from the prize-winning 2009 Howard team that has graduated players such as Ole Miss' Miles Hamblin. Originally out of Duncanville High School in Dallas, Leftridge was a late-round draft pick of the Twins out of high school, and he didn't emerge at Howard until last spring after sitting out for a year. He was a 27th round pick of the Braves after an outstanding freshman year, but he returned to Howard. An outstanding athlete, Leftridge has spent most of the season getting on base and running, as well as playing outstanding defense in center field. At the plate, he doesn't have much usable pro power, but he's an above-average hitter with a good eye and plus to plus-plus speed. He hits leadoff now, and that's his projection as a pro, too. In the field, he's an above-average defender in center, but with a fringy arm, which will limit him to center or left in the pros. I expect him to handle center just fine. The drawback with Leftridge is that he's not projectable, as he's already 21, but the athleticism is good, and he's a candidate to be a higher pick than expected due to a weaker four-year college outfield class. Projected Draft Range: 4th-8th Round

Matt Lipka, SS, McKinney HS, McKinney
Lipka is teammates with Zach Lee, and he's been an interpreter of sorts for Lee, who has refused to talk to scouts directly due to the distraction. Aside from that act of kindness, Lipka is quite a player himself. A natural athlete who also has a possible football career ahead of him at Alabama, Lipka features a potential plus hit tool, as well as plus-plus speed that rates as the top speed in the state. While he doesn't project for anything more than below-average power in the 8-10 home run category in his prime, that's not his game. He's a better hitter when he's going gap-to-gap, punishing balls with good balance. He's rather raw in his pitch recognition, which might result in a longer path in the minors, but the talent is good enough to warrant a high pick anyway. In the field, he's just as raw as he is recognizing pitches. He has above-average range, but his reaction time is sometimes below-average, and he can get his footwork mixed up a little at times. Some scouts want to move him across the bag to second base, where he could use his natural athleticism and above-average arm to be an elite fielder with a good bat. However, he could also land in center field, which would require less polish in order to accelerate his learning at the plate. Like Lee, Lipka's going to have to make a tough decision in the coming weeks, as scouts will want to know his signability before draft day, though his signability is less concerning than Lee's. Projected Draft Range: 2nd-5th Round

Barret Loux, RHP, Texas A&M
Although some would have you believe that Loux has come out of nowhere to dominate this spring, he's actually been on the radar screen for quite some time. Had it not been for shoulder problems during his senior year, he could have been a first day pick in the 2007 draft. However, he fell to the Tigers in the 24th round, and he's fallen off the radar a little following two average seasons for the Aggies, the second ending prematurely due to bone chips in his elbow. However, being healthy has been the best thing for Loux this spring, as his stuff, command, and durability has all gotten better throughout the season. He pitches off a plus 92-94 mph fastball that gets average movement, but he's really spotting it on the corners this year. He adds in a plus curveball and potential above-average changeup, making him one of the highest-ceiling college pitchers available in the entire draft class. After being held back a little early on in the season, he's also started to be let loose a little, and he's responded well, pitching deeper into games and maintaining his stuff in front of large audiences of scouts. The only drawback in Loux's game is his injury history that involves both his elbow and shoulder, and while he flashes excellent stuff, that history is going to scare off some teams that are afraid that the injuries will pop back up again on a five day rotation in the minors. However, he's an elite arm, and he'll be gone before the start of the third round if he maintains his stuff for the next six weeks. Projected Draft Range: Late 1st Round - Mid 2nd Round

Damien Magnifico, RHP, Howard JC
Magnifico became a notable name in high school when he raced up draft boards with an excellent senior year. The Mets decided to make him their 2009 5th round draft pick despite rumors of big bonus demands, and they ended up not being able to get a deal done before the August deadline. Entering Howard as the most well-known freshman on their team, he bumped up his velocity even more in the fall, attracting plenty of interest from the scouting community. However, he came down with severe elbow soreness before the start of the spring season, and he's been out all year. At the moment, I can't confirm whether or not he had surgery on the elbow, though I'm told he has. Before the injury, he was pumping in fastballs in the 92-94 range, touching 96-97, and that was up a tick or two from his high school days. He added in a potential above-average curveball, but both of his pitches were considered below-average for command in both the present and future, and many scouts thought of him more as a shutdown reliever than a starter. In addition, his frame is smaller than a prototypical starter's, and the elbow problems only stand to reinforce the issue. It's quite likely that Magnifico ends up back in school next year, but he's still a name to watch. Projected Draft Range: 7th Round - Undrafted

Jason Martinson, 3B, Texas State
Martinson is a former football player that quit playing when he tore his hamstring during his freshman year in the Texas State program. After struggling a rough freshman campaign on the diamond following that, he gave up football to concentrate on baseball. That seemed to work well, as he had a solid sophomore campaign. More importantly, he transitioned to shortstop after not playing the position since high school, and he handled it rather well. He entered 2010 looking to build on that campaign, but he's seemingly leveled off. Despite a hot streak that included a 20+ game hit streak, Martinson's offensive output is roughly the same as 2009, and scouts are wondering if he projects well for the pros at the plate. He's a fringe-average hitter with fringe-average power, and while that's fine for a college shortstop, he lacks the range to stay there as a pro, meaning he'll have to handle third base. He has an average arm, and he's an average runner, so he could be a nice third baseman if he calms his hands down a bit. The consensus now seems to be that Martinson might make for a solid four corners utility player in the pros, and that has some value. He's going to strike out, but he works the count rather well, and he should make for a solid bench presence with good makeup. Projected Draft Range: 6th-12th Round

Steven Maxwell, RHP, TCU
All eyes were on Maxwell's freshman teammate Matt Purke when TCU opened their season, but it was Maxwell that got the season-opening start. Though Maxwell has since been pushed back to the Sunday spot of the rotation, he's actually had the best season between the trio of Purke, himself, and 2011 prospect Kyle Winkler. However, injury history and lack of projection will ultimately keep Maxwell from becoming a prime draft prospect. Originally from The Woodlands High School, now famous for 2010 draft prospect Jameson Taillon, Maxwell entered TCU without much fanfare, though he logged a solid freshman campaign out of the bullpen. However, disaster struck during his sophomore campaign, when he was off to an excellent start in the rotation. He blew out his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery, and he ended up redshirting. He returned to TCU the following year, but never recovered his feel for pitching and went undrafted as a redshirt sophomore. His 2010 campaign has shown the return of his stuff, which is back of the rotation material. He usually works 88-91 with his fastball, touching 93 when needed. He complements it with an average curveball and fringe-average changeup, though he's new enough to his changeup that he could improve upon it. As a 22 year old junior, Maxwell should be an easy sign in the top ten rounds. Projected Draft Range: 7th-12th Round

Zach Nuding, RHP, Weatherford JC
Nuding is one of the few non-Howard or San Jacinto junior college prospects in the state of Texas. A big-bodied right-hander, Nuding came to Weatherford's fairly new baseball program from Haltom High School in Texas, and after having a successful freshman campaign in relief, the Pirates used a late-round draft on him. He decided to return to school, and he's blossomed so far this year mostly as a starter. He features some of the best natural stuff in the junior college ranks, but also some of the worst command, though it's a reasonable tradeoff if you believe in his potential. He starts out with a low-90s fastball that sits 90-93 when starting, though he's touched 96 in relief in the past. He complements it with a potential above-average slider and a split-finger fastball that gets mixed reviews. He struggles to command each of them, especially the two secondaries. However, he only started pitching late in his high school career, so there's reason to think that he'll continue to unlock his pure talent with more repetitions. He has a body that might profile for a little too much weight in the future, and he'll have to work hard on keeping in shape, but most scouts see him as a potential number four starter with above-average stuff, but below-average command. Projected Draft Range: 7th-12th Round

Sean O'Connor, RHP, Southlake Carroll HS, Southlake
O'Connor has really come on strong this spring as the ace of a team in one of the most competitive districts in all of high school baseball. Previously thought of as a two-way talent due to his power bat at third base, he's essentially played himself off of that position with an excellent season on the mound, and scouts generally agree that he has much more of a pro future there. Though he has always flashed solid stuff, he's taken off this year on account of the maturation of his secondary pitches and command, and he has the makings of a power groundball pitcher. His fastball is a hard, boring pitch with excellent armside run, sitting 88-91, touching 93 this spring, which is about as high as he got in the fall in Jupiter, though he was pitching in short stints then. He's holding that velocity well this spring, and when combined with his projectable 6'5'' frame, he looks like an excellent starting pitching prospect. Though he has a slider with above-average potential, he's focused more on refining his curve and changeup this spring, and both look like solid-average future offerings. If he picks the slider back up a bit more, he could have a four pitch arsenal with a pair of better-than-average pitches included. He has the makings of a #3 starter, maybe even more if his secondary pitches continue to develop like they are now. His Dallas Baptist scholarship isn't considered a major factor in signing him in the early rounds. Projected Draft Range: 4th-7th Round

James Paxton, LHP, Grand Prairie AirHogs
It's a little strange to see Paxton's name in a writeup on Texas ballplayers, but that's what Paxton will be when he makes his debut with Grand Prairie in a few weeks. Paxton's story is well-known by now. The latest in the NCAA's crusade against student-athletes using agents in negotiations with pro teams, Paxton left school at Kentucky this spring after refusing to submit to an interview about his use of Scott Boras in negotiations with the Blue Jays after being picked in 37th overall last June. Whether scouts agree with the NCAA's position or not, there is general disappointment that there will only be limited looks at Paxton before a major decision has to be made regarding drafting him at a high draft slot. He featured an easy plus fastball in the 92-94 range a year ago, along with a plus curveball on some days, and that two-pitch mix made him the envy of all left-handed pitchers. However, despite having plus control, his command is quite spotty, and when he doesn't hit his spots, he's hit fairly hard. He does project to be a better pitcher as a pro against wood bats than against metal bats in college, but the fact still remains that he hasn't had a true successful collegiate season under his belt. Paxton does have #2 starter upside, and he's still only 21, but he needs to prove he can be healthy for a full season and command his stuff deep into starts. Projected Draft Range: Mid 1st Round - Late 2nd Round

Miguel Pena, LHP, San Jacinto JC
Pena came to San Jac as their highest-drafted signee in the current drafting system, and so far he hasn't disappointed. With the fall of expected rotation-mates Tommy Collier and David Rollins, Pena has taken on a big role on an excellent team that is ranked number one in most circles at this moment. The Nationals took Pena in the 5th round of the draft a year ago out of La Joya High School, thinking he was signable for slot money. However, Pena spurned their offer, and he's turned in the most impressive freshman campaign on the pitching mound this spring. He doesn't feature top-end stuff, and while that dampens his chances of a long pro career, scouts see the value in his command and feel for pitching. His fastball is a solid-average offering that sits 88-90, touching 92, and he spots it to all four quadrants with relative ease. He adds in a potential above-average curveball and average changeup, making him a solid back of the rotation prospect. Though he has room to fill out, most scouts are down on his relatively small stature, thinking that he might be better suited for a bullpen assignment, where he could effectively shut down lefties with his fastball and curve. However, a number of teams would be happy to give him the chance to start, and the only question is how his status as a freshman might impact his signability. Projected Draft Range: 3rd-6th Round

Kendrick Perkins, OF, La Porte HS, La Porte
Perkins has had a strange senior year, dating back to last summer. After announcing he was giving up football, where he was a star running back, to concentrate on baseball, his stock rose, though he decided too late in the summer to play anything other than the Area Code Games. However, after watching a few football games, he decided to jump back into the game, having another great season and causing doubts among scouts about whether his baseball commitment was genuine. Since the season, Perkins has once again said he's now baseball-only, and his scholarship to Texas A&M is only for baseball. As such, with a solid senior baseball season and the announcement, his stock has risen again. As one can guess, he's a very gifted athlete that has tools across the board, and it's all a matter of how he uses them. At the plate, he's understandably raw and struggles with offspeed stuff, but he has above-average to plus power potential from the left side. He's also an above-average runner, profiling for right field defensively with the power and above-average arm to handle the position on both sides of the ball. He could be an above-average fielder there in time, but that's less of a sure thing. Now it's up to him as to whether he wants to give up his scholarship to become an Aggie, as he could be a first day pick if he indicates his willingness to do so. Projected Draft Range: Early 3rd Round - 5th Round

Brooks Pinckard, RHP/OF, Baylor
Pinckard has risen up draft boards as a redshirt sophomore due to his combination of a power arm on the mound and plus speed in the field. Though there's a bit of a split in the scouting community as to whether Pinckard is a pitcher or hitter in the long run, there isn't as much debate about where there's more potential, which is on the mound. Baylor's closer, Pinckard features a plus fastball that sits 91-93, touching 95, and while he doesn't command it well, he gets above-average movement on it, getting a lot of weak contact. He doesn't get a lot of swings and misses with it, which is a bit concerning, but it's the type of pitch that could saw off wood bats. It could also be that hitters zone in on his fastball, as he rarely dips into his arsenal for a below-average breaking ball. He's going to be a bullpen arm even if he turns pro as a pitcher, and it would likely mean his ceiling is as an eighth inning arm, not a closer. As a hitter, he's more of a slasher without power projection, and most of his value is in his defense in center field, where he projects as above-average. He's a solid all-around prospect, and while it seems he should be a pitcher, two-way players can always surprise. Projected Draft Range: 3rd-6th Round

There are still 15 more Texas profiles to come, so come back again for profiles on such prospects as Brian Ragira, Chance Ruffin, Jameson Taillon, and Brandon Workman.