Vaughn Bryan, Athlete

Does that look like the face of a cold blooded baseball machine? No? - pbasailfish.com

The biggest surprise of the 2014 Cardinal prospect lists came via Jason Parks, who stuck Vaughn Bryan in his Top 10 Cardinals list over at Baseball Prospectus. Due to Parks' shot across our bow at Future Redbirds, I decided to take a second look at Bryan to see what all the fuss was about.

As someone who makes a point of studying the entire Cardinals farm system (and who now writes about it during a considerable amount of his free time) it's a bit embarrassing when a scout comes along and slaps a top ten ranking on a player you've literally never even heard of.

That's exactly what happened a week or so back when I pulled up the Cardinals Top 10 prospects over at Baseball Prospectus. The usual characters were all there: Taveras, Wong, Piscotty, Gonzales, Kelly, Kaminsky, Reyes (a surprise to some, but not me as I'd seen video of his curveball last fall). Then Tim Cooney who I thought was underrated in the Cardinals system, as mentioned yesterday. Grichuk? Yeah, ok. Parks is a fan of good athletes with lots of tools and he did hit 19 22 homers last year even if it was in the Texas League (albeit in the worst park for RHH home runs in the whole league). I could see that argument even if I didn't necessarily agree with it.

Then this totally unfamiliar name stuck at #10. Vaughn Bryan. Who the heck is this guy? Is that name spelled right? Is it missing a comma? IS IT MO VAUGHN'S LONG LOST SON?!?!

Jump over to Baseball-Reference first: Ok, yes, his name is Vaughn Bryan. (Dammit, get out of my head thoughts of Bryan Vaughn being the Prince Fielder to Papa Mo's Big Cecil -- and think of the future playoff beard...). He's a switch hitter? Stock just went up. Broward Community College? Never heard of that place, but it's in Fort Lauderdale and Mat Latos went there. The Seahawks -- well that's a popular mascot, just won the handegg title. Bryan hit .353/.393/.444 there as a sophomore last year, while batting leadoff and playing CF. Well that's interesting...until you see that his team hit .311/.399/.398, including Vaughn, of course. But still, doesn't knock your socks off.

Drafted in the 35th round of the 2013 draft. Nick Markakis got taken in the 35th round by the Reds back in 2001. Well that's promis...oh, as a pitcher out of high school. Then the Orioles took him 7th overall 2 years later. Hmph. But it's not like the Cardinals haven't been hitting these late round picks out of the park lately. They have: Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist...this just means that every other team passed on Vaughn Bryan 34 times. Didn't anyone want to take a flyer on him being Mo Vaughn's love child at least?

Over to Fangraphs: Assigned to Johnson City and got 261 PA's, hit .280/.341/.394 -- not bad: .343 wOBA and a 113 wRC+. Not special either though: Kenny Peoples is 2 months younger than Bryan and hit .300/.352/.468 as his teammate in four fewer PA's, moved to the OF during instructionals last fall and he's nowhere NEAR anybody's top 10 list this season, despite this writer labeling him Super Tools (but he made our top 36 for Hatchlings! Winning!?). Are you sayin' I shoulda saved that one, Mr. Parks? That I pulled the "super tools" to early this season? What do you see in this guy that nobody else seems to see, except maybe Dan Kantrovitz?

Well, why not just ask him? To the Twitter!

Clearer picture now: Bryan's not being ranked on where he is as a player right now, he's being ranked on his projected potential. "Higher than most." That's pretty high praise -- we got any video of this unicorn in a Seahawk jersey?


First off: I'm glad we didn't draft him as a middle infielder. Holy fundamentals, Batman. Second, did anyone catch his time to first base at the beginning of the hitting section? I got him between 3.98 and 4.08 in 15 different tries (I'm a perfectionist, but a probabalistic one). That's pretty damn fast. You can see what Parks' means when he says "run is ++". Third, Mike Matheny is going to love any guy that is bunting in his prospect video, so you know he's got one fan in the organization already.

His swing? It's ok, but has some significant flaws. For one, his hips open up really early, especially from the right side, and that's likely costing him a significant amount of power. From the left side, he's got some bat drag issues that could cause some struggles -- similar, in fact, to what Kenny Peoples has. Keep in mind this is 2011, before he played 2 seasons of JUCO ball and a half season of pro baseball. Bryan might have ironed a lot of this out of his swing by now, but I don't have any new video to know whether he has or not.

I can't find a reason to stick him ahead of Charlie Tilson (who's also not in my Cardinals Top Ten) based solely on athleticism and speed. Tilson is just 6 months older, completed a full season in A ball already where he put up a .303/.349/.388 line, and seems to have all the tools that Bryan has. Parks hints some possible power projection in his BP write-up, but nothing I've yet seen indicates that there's much to project. Bryan is listed at 6'0", 185 and Tilson is 5'11", 175 -- they'd certainly fight in the same weight class, so it's hard for me to see how you project a lot of power on a guy that hasn't shown much of it yet at any level. Admittedly, Jason Parks has likely seen Vaughn Bryan play and I have not. It's entirely possible that I'm missing the boat on this one, and I wouldn't be alone: I'm safe on the big boat with most everyone else, Mr. Parks in the row boat by himself. But maybe we're all on the Titanic and Jason has snagged one of the few rescue boats.

I can easily defend all of what Parks says above, I think he's spot on in his assessment that Vaughn Bryan has some great tools on the pegboard. But as Daryl Jones will tell you, tools are just tools -- it's how you refine them as you develop as a player that determines your success.

Perhaps this is just a difference of opinion in how to rank prospects: I like to see more skilled talent before I give a guy a high ranking. Jason Parks sees raw athleticism and ranks a player based on his projected ceiling. Either way, we're both going to be wrong a significant percentage of the time (and my untrained eye is going to be wrong more often than his trained one).

So, I ask you, Future Redbird readers: What do you think of Vaughn Bryan? Does he make your top ten?

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