I'm writing this ahead of time, so I don't have a clue how the Padres game turned out. That being said, I'm choosing to be optimistic, so how about that game last night? Man, no way in the world would I have ever expected the Cardinals to do that. And trading for Mat Latos in the middle of the game, only to use him to pitch the eleventh and thirteenth innings, thus making him the Grover Cleveland of the pitching world? Inspired!
So I think now we can all agree that not only is the Cards' recent slump over, but they're clearly prohibitive favourites to win the World Series. In fact, I would go so far as to say after witnessing that performance last night, there's really no reason to play the rest of the season. The next four months are just delaying the inevitable. Trophy ceremony is Friday, people! Don't be late.
Okay, so that's out of the way now. On to the draft stuff. We're only about two weeks out, and players are beginning to separate out a bit. A couple notes real quick:
Keith Law has the Cardinals selecting Matt Harvey. (Subscription required) I would be thrilled with Harvey, but I think he goes earlier than this.
John Sickels has a new draft board up (based on his own rankings, not who he thinks will actually be picked where), and has Bryce Brentz rated at #25. Not that that means anything in terms of of actual draft position, but having him rated in the general range of the Cards' pick is certainly interesting, at the very least.
This week I want to look at three players who have made a significant move up since the beginning of draft season, guys who began the spring with middling status but have shot up the board into high pick consideration.
Kolbrin Vitek, 2B/3B, Ball State University
6'3", 195 lbs
DOB: 1st April, 1989
So, what's so great about this guy?
It's a thin crop of position players this year, but Vitek has played himself into the very top of the heap with an outstanding junior campaign. He came into the season an intriguing talent with a nice power/ speed combo, but wasn't all that well known due in large part to his playing off the beaten track of the big baseball schools. Now, though, he's been projected as high as ninth overall, as the Padres have been reported to have great interest in Vitek's talents.
Vitek has tools to spare, beginning with great hands which allow him to spray line drives to all parts of the park. He's shown good power with aluminum bats, but there is some question whether or not he'll show over the fence power as a pro with wood bats. Even if he doesn't, there's every reason to believe he should have plenty of pop in his bat, if only of the gap variety. He has good speed as well, swiping 17 bags in 50 games his sophomore season and being clocked as fast as 6.6 in the 60. Vitek's arm is a plus, as he has thrown as hard as 92 off the mound in college.
Up until this season, Vitek played almost exclusively at third base, but has moved over to second this year. He's got plenty of arm for third, but I personally think his athleticism and footwork are plenty good to remain at second base. His offensive ceiling would obviously play much better at second, where his potential shoots off the charts.
The biggest knock on Vitek is the level of competition he's faced in college, as he plays in the MAC rather than a big-time power conference. Still, he's performed well against any and all opponents, and I expect him to continue doing so in his pro career. Vitek wasn't a player I really thought of as an option for the Cardinals in this draft, but if he's available at 25, he might represent an outstanding fit. He reminds me a little of Drew Stubbs, only on the infield instead of the outfield. (He also doesn't have the serious strikeout issue Stubbs does; another point in Vitek's favour.)
Brett Eibner, RHP/OF, University of Arkansas
6'4", 210 lbs
DOB: 2nd December, 1988
So, what's so great about this guy?
Brett Eibner represents the conundrum all teams face when trying to scout two-way players: his athleticism and talent is easy to see, but projecting what he could do while focusing on just one side of the ball is much more difficult.
It's still unclear where Eibner's future lays exactly, as teams and scouts are still largely divided on what his best fit ultimately may be. For my money, I like him better as a pitcher, where he's shown a fastball up to 94 and the ability to spin a pretty good slider. His delivery is also a plus as far as I'm concerned, as it looks easy and natural and explosive.
As a position player, Eibner projects pretty well also, with good speed and fair power potential. He has a long, loopy swing I'm not overly fond of, and has struggled badly with pitch recognition. Of course, the fact he's relatively raw at so many of the finer points of the game on both sides of the ball is largely due to the fact he has yet to commit to one or the other.
Coming out of high school, Eibner was drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Astros, who wanted him to pitch. Eibner himself preferred to enter pro ball as a position player, and ended up not signing with the 'Stros. Whether he still insists on hitting could very well make a big difference where he's drafted this year, though his evident talent will certainly get him taken fairly early on. If he were to commit publicly to pitching, I would think he could easily go in the top 20 picks, particularly to a team that values athleticism in their pitchers. (For whatever it may be worth, Seiler has Eibner going to the Cubs in his latest mock, as Chicago has been willing to take pitchers with great athleticism and unconventional backgrounds before. It makes sense, especially is Eibner seems willing to stick on the mound.)
Kellin Deglan, C, Langley High School (British Columbia)
6'2", 200 lbs
DOB: 3rd June, 1992
So, what's so great about this guy?
Deglan has been on the radar for a couple years now as a catching prospect with a sweet left-handed swing and a strong arm behind the plate, but he was seen as a likely college player due to his very slight build. That perception has changed this year, as Deglan has put on a substantial amount of weight, filling in his gangly frame. He still has room for a bit more projection, too, but has already matured enough to ensure he'll likely hear his name called early in the draft.
Deglan is the top prep school position player in the draft this year, and is unusually toolsy for a catcher. He projects to hit for both average and at least average power, thanks to a well-leveraged and balanced swing to go along with excellent hands. In fact, his swing has garnered him a few comparisons to Joe Mauer, thought that seems both hyperbolic and unfair to the kid at this point. The mere fact anyone has even thought of such a lofty projection, though, should give you at least a fair idea of how high Deglan's ceiling just might be with the bat.
Behind the plate, he shows a strong arm, but is still learning to consistently work his feet and release point. I haven't been able to find substantial video of him playing catcher, and the rest of his defensive skills are rarely mentioned in scouting reports, so I have to assume they're decent enough for high schooler but will need plenty of development to become useful skills.
Drafting high school catchers is a tricky business; for every Mauer or Molina there are a hundred others who never manage to bring such a tough package of tools together properly. At the very least, any team looking to draft a catcher from the prep ranks early in the draft needs to be willing to treat the player as both a long-term investment and project, rather than looking to fill a hole within a couple years. Of all the catchers in this draft, though, high school or collegiate, Deglan could very well represent the highest ultimate ceiling down the road somewhere. Just don't expect it to be soon.
*One final note: one player I've already covered, Stetson Allie, has been one of the biggest movers up draft boards in recent weeks. Teams are buying into him as a starter more and more, as he seems to have taken a step forward with his command and delivery as the high school season has gone on. He now looks to be a lock for the top half of the first round.
The Baron's Playlist for the 26th of May, 2010
"Make Your Own Kind of Music" - Cass Elliot (my own little tribute to the last of Lost)
"Streetwalker" - Delta Spirit
"I Know We Have to Be Apart" - Bicycles
"Until the Day" - Key
"You Are an Airplane" - Of Montreal
"Oh, Bessie!" - The Teeth