Who Is That Guy?
Last year, the Chicago Cubs surprised the baseball world by selecting Southern Arkansas University right-hander Hayden Simpson in the first round, 16th overall. Although Simpson was well-known to scouts and other teams were considering him for the supplemental or second round, the pick caught analysts off guard and left many Cubs fans scratching heads. There is usually at least one similar surprise every year, although the very deep nature of the 2011 draft may mean we are less likely to see a strange name pop on the board early this evening.
Nevertheless, it seem inevitable that someone who hasn't received a lot of national attention will get chosen sooner than the outside experts anticipate, especially late in the first round or in the supplemental round. Here are nine players who look like decent bets to be such surprises.
People who follow the draft closely will be familiar with most of these names, but a lot of people were familiar with Hayden Simpson, too. They just didn't think he'd be a first-rounder.
Granden Goetzman, OF, Palmetto HS, Palmetto, Florida: Goetzman is a very toolsy outfielder with strong power/speed potential. Scouts are well aware of him, and in some years he would be a certain first round pick, though given the depth this year he is expected to last until the supplemental or second round. However, it is plausible that a team looking for a player with high upside and a fair amount of polish, who might sign for slot money, could pick him in the bottom of the first round. A team with multiple picks would be quite interested.
Erik Johnson, RHP, University of California: Johnson is ranked 97th on the Baseball America prospect list and 74th on the Perfect Game list, which would put him on the bottom fringes of the supplemental round or in the second. However, he has the power arm (90-95 MPH fastball, good slider) to go somewhere in the middle of the supplemental round for a team that believes they can refine his mechanics and polish his changeup.
Riley Moore, C, San Marcos HS, Santa Barbara, California: Although his bat draws mixed opinions, Moore is an excellent defensive catcher and at least some scouts believe he'll be a decent hitter as well, possibly more than that. He has a University of Arizona scholarship to fall back on, but given the premium that many teams put on catching, he could go earlier than expected and soon enough to be easily bought out of college ball.
Jace Peterson, SS, McNeese State University: Middle infielders with a chance to hit are another scarce commodity, and if better-known options like Joe Panik or Brad Miller come off the board too soon, Peterson is a good backup choice for someone in the supplemental round. He has top-shelf athleticism, more offensive polish than anticipated given his background as a football cornerback, and could stick at shortstop. Coming from a smaller school tends to keep him out of casual consciousness, but that's a mistake.
Roman Quinn, INF-OF, Port St. Joe HS, Port St. Joe, Florida: Speed attracts most teams and Quinn has plenty of that, with 80-speed and enough pop to keep the respect of pitchers despite his 5-9 size. He's somewhat raw and it is unclear if he is a second baseman or outfielder in the long run, but players with his profile often go sooner than anticipated on draft day.
Jake Sisco, RHP, Merced Junior College: He throws 92-95 MPH, and his slider, curve, and changeup are all promising. He has a good body, pitched quite well this year, and still has remaining projectability. As a freshman he has a bit of leverage, but a team who mines the junior college ranks could easily pop him early enough to get his name on a contract without much problem. He could be a huge steal.
Jeff Soptic, RHP, Johnson County Community College: This 6-6 right-hander scrapes 100 MPH with his fastball and has a promising slider. Although somewhat unrefined as a pitcher, his upside is huge and his arm strength is as good as anyone else's in the draft. He could easily go in the supplemental round to a team looking for a high-octane arm to harness.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers, Florida: Although deep draft watchers are familiar with the power-hitting, beefy (6-0, 240) Vogelbach, more casual fans may have overlooked him. He's rated just 109th on the Baseball America list, but some observers believe that a team with multiple picks (who could that be?) will take him in the supplemental round or even in the bottom of the first round, due to his enormous power and strong plate discipline.
Keenyn Walker, OF, Central Arizona Junior College: The blazing fast, 80-speed Walker showed greatly improved hitting skills this spring, and in some draft classes would be rated a first-rounder. The deep nature of this class, plus the fact that junior college players get less attention than high school or four-year college players, pushes Walker back to second or third round slots for most. However, someone in love with his athleticism could easily choose him in the supplemental.
LATE NOTE: Baseball America is reporting late rumors that some teams are in on a Cuban defector named Onelki Garcia Speck as a possible FIRST ROUND or supplemental pick. He's a 23-year-old lefty who reportedly has a 90+ fastball and a big curve. I don't know anything about him other than this vague report, but it bears watching. Frankie Pilliere indicates that the Cubs, picking at nine overall, have a strong interest.