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2014 Draft Preview Part Four: Speed Kills

Speed: it's not just for the SEC any more.

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Hey there, guys. How are you this morning? Me? Oh, alright, I suppose, other than being in a terrific hurry to try and get this thing finished in a very, very limited period of time. In fact, it's such a limited time today I'm going to pretty much skip the whole long, rambling preamble thing I typically to in favour of just saying this week in the draft preview section, we're taking a look at three speedy outfielders. Sorry about that abrupt shift, but let it never be said I didn't at least try to support this whole "structured, predictable, punctual," thing.

On to the scouting reports.

Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville HIgh School (Georgia)

6'2", 205 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Toolshed: n; 1 - A small building, usually located nearby a main structure, constructed for the purpose of storing tools or work equipment; 2 - (slang) A baseball player of exceeding physical talents, particularly of a diverse nature; 3 - Michael Gettys.

I mentioned last week in my post on the three position players I like most in this draft that Michael Gettys would essentially be my runner-up, my honourable mention, my...what? Electrum medalist, perhaps? Okay, so maybe that's not exactly the highest praise one can imagine; I promise I mean it in the nicest way possible.

And, honestly, a big part of that sentiment was driven by the fact I see very little chance the Cardinals ever have a shot at drafting Gettys, also. For the most part, I've tried to keep these draft previews Cards-centric over the years; i.e. I usually focus most heavily on what I see as realistic targets. (Sure, I did write up Trea Turner, the shortstop out of NC State with virtually no chance of dropping to the Redbirds, but I felt like one of those per column was enough.) And Michael Gettys just isn't all that realistic a target.

The reason? Tools. Tools that virtually no other player in the 2014 draft can match up against. Gettys has four of the five tools in spades, and just enough of the fifth that it's easy to slap the Five Tool Player tag on him and be done with it. Me? Well, I'm not quite ready to do that just yet.

The speed is an easy plus; actually, it's an easy plus-plus. Gettys has truly elite, blazing top-end speed. He's a natural center fielder, capable of tracking down balls in the gaps with the best of them, and the glove itself is good enough to take full advantage of his wheels. He may also have the biggest outfield arm in the draft, being clocked as high 100 mph throwing full-tilt from the outfield and working in the low 90s off the mound. (In fact, up until roughly this past summer, Gettys was seen as more of a pitching prospect, but the emergence of his all-around toolset has pushed that aside.) You don't see arms like Gettys's come along very often; if I had only one word to describe his arm in the outfield, I would go with "Ankielesque".

At the plate, the power potential is what stands out most for Gettys, as he's capable of hitting moon shots that belie both his youth and what is still a relatively modest build at the moment. Lightning-quick wrists and hands make him a dynamic offensive talent easy to dream on for years to come. If you took a poll today of scouts covering the amateur ranks this year, I think Gettys would run away with the, "Most Likely to Turn Into Mike Trout," award, and there might not be a runner-up at all. He's not built like Trout, of course; he's put together much more like, say, Justin Upton than Brian Urlacher, but the tools are honestly not that different. Well, the four I've talked about so far, that is. The other one?

Well, that's the question. The hit tool. Gettys is extremely young, and very raw, and there's plenty of room to project out years down the road and believe in the progress he could make as a hitter. But as of right now, I have concerns about his bat, and I can't help but express them. All the power potential in the world, and all the game-changing speed you want to talk about, can be sabotaged pretty easily if a player just can't translate it into success with the bat. There's a lot of swing and miss to Gettys's game, and he's extremely vulnerable to anything soft. Breaking balls, changeups, stuffed bunny name it, Gettys struggles against it. He can turn around a fastball with the best of them, but beyond that he has some real problems. A batting-practice monster, you might say, at least when talking about high-end competition. I find myself wondering how much of his issues come from the strange hesitation in his swing, the way he strides, plants, then stops...and then swings. That interruption in what should be a smooth, continuous motion seems damaging to me. Although, I suppose that could be something you might also look at and say, "Well, a lot of his problems come from this specific little mechanical flaw, and if you fix that, then look what you might have." I'm not sure if I'm willing to take quite such an optimistic view.

Nonetheless, I'm very high on Gettys. His ability to play a premium position at a premium level will take him a long way in pro ball, and the potential in his bat could take him all the way to the top. There's just too much talent here, too high a ceiling, for him not to get every chance in the world to make it, and even if the bat doesn't fully develop, he might still make it to the majors on the basis of all the other things he can do. But as much as I like him, I would be remiss if I didn't say I have concerns. Some of his problems may very well improve as he focuses on hitting full-time this spring and gains experience. But I've come to believe more and more as time goes on that the hit tool may be the single most important tool a player can possess, as it allows all the other tools to take their proper places in a guy's repertoire. And that's the one tool I have doubts about when it comes to Gettys. That being said, I'm sure he's a top ten pick come June, and I'm left dreaming of how good he would look in a Cardinal uniform.

Carl Chester, OF, Lake Brantley High School (Florida)

6'0", 175 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

As fast as Michael Gettys is, he doesn't hold a candle to Carl Chester. Well, alright, that's not quite true; he holds a candle, absolutely, but Chester then steals that candle as he runs by on the way to winning whatever strange race this is players are running while holding candles.

Chester has been timed running a 60-yard dash as low as 6.28 seconds. That's absolutely unreal. For reference, an average runner at the major league level will probably run somewhere between 6.8-7.0 seconds in the 60. Sure, that less-than-one-second difference may not sound like a whole lot, but keep in mind how slim a difference in, say, a catcher's pop time is considered to be significant. You pop 1.8, you're an elite catcher in the making. You pop 2.1, and you're a first-base conversion project.

Speed isn't all that Chester offers, however. His overall fielding tools are outstanding, with an excellent glove and an arm that, while not in Michael Gettys's class, is anything but weak. He could play a gold-glove caliber center field with no trouble at all, I believe, and again, it's tough to overstate just how important a premium position really is.

At the plate, I'm actually a slightly bigger fan of what Chester does, in many ways, than Gettys. His stance is somewhat unorthodox, with a very open stance, a lot of movement, and a tendency to hang back on his back foot way too much when hitting. Look at how he almost collapses on to his back leg in some of the swings in the video. You don't want a hitter out on their front foot, of course, but I would think Chester staying back and almost dropping his back side has to lead to some popupitis.There are some improvements to be made, to be sure.

What excites me about Chester, though, is the level of hand-eye coordination he shows, not to mention a willingness to use all fields that's somewhat rare in a player this young. He goes to the opposite field as well as any high school player you're ever going to see, and does a much better job of waiting on offspeed stuff than most hitters at this stage of development.

As far as power potential, Chester has some, but not nearly as much as someone like Gettys, I don't think. He has plenty of bat speed, but is never going to be a real thumper, to be honest. Still, I have to admit I like him, in some ways, every bit as well as I like Gettys, if not a bit better. Chester has shown an intelligent approach, an ability to use all fields, and plenty of contact already in his game. The swing needs work, I think, but I feel better about his actual hitting ability than I do Gettys. You want a comp for Carl Chester? Well, the Cardinals' current center fielder isn't a bad place to start, though I think he might end up even a better hitter than Peter Bourjos down the road. The overall package, though, certainly puts me in that mind.

Would I take Carl Chester over Michael Gettys? No, probably not. The tools on Gettys are just too impressive, the ceiling too high. Gettys is going to deserve that high draft pick, while Chester will probably still be sitting around in the middle of the third round. But for my money, Chester is a guy I could certainly see ending up one of the biggest steals of the 2014 draft when all is said and done.

Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove High School (California)

6'2", 175 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

While Carl Chester may be the fastest player in the 2014 draft, Hill likely isn't far behind, with at least one official 6.4 60 yard time in his showcase history, and an ability to chew up vast swaths of real estate in the outfield that should serve him well. His arm is strong, though I personally think it's the weakest of the three guys covered here today, and he's shown a polish in the field already that speaks well of being a former minor leaguer's son. (His father never quite made the big leagues, washing out in Triple A.)  He's clearly learned a thing or two from dear old dad along the way.

HIll's speed, at least for now, translates much better in the field than on the basepaths, where he hasn't yet shown the timing and instincts of a basestealer. Of course, he's also too young to drink legally, so there's plenty of time for him to develop his craft on the bases. He can run; turning that into a weapon offensively should come.

For me, I don't think Hill's bat matches up to either of the other guys on this list, to be honest. He's an intelligent hitter -- again, the family baseball pedigree is there -- but I'm not at all a fan of his swing. I've seen him off-balance far too often in just extremely limited viewing for my tastes, and even when he's balanced, he always looks like he's swinging down on the ball. High to low is a coaching trope, I know, but it's not one I agree with, and I think there's a whole lot of high to low in Hill's swing. I think back on that horrible video of Brendan Ryan a few years ago, explaining how he was trying to swing down into the ball, and besides wanting to cry for Boog, I think of all the problems that philosophy causes.

As far as power potential, I think Hill has some, but not a ton. You might look at that 6'2" and 175 pounds thing and think he's got a lot of room to grow, and he does, but he doesn't look to me like the type who's ever going to carry a ton of muscle on his frame. And, again, without a lot of work on his swing, I think his approach mechanically at the plate is just too limiting for me to really love his long-term pop.

I think it's fairly obvious by now, but Hill isn't my favourite player on this list. Which, of course, means he'll likely become a ten-year all star, just to make me look even dumber than I generally do. But if I was betting on things, I wouldn't put my rent money of Hill living up to the billing.

Given a choice of any player on this list, I would probably have to go with Gettys, just because the tools are so loud. Honestly, though, the longer I look at things, I'm not sure I wouldn't say Carl Chester is actually the player I like most of this group. It's a head/heart kind of thing, I suppose; my head knows Gettys is too talented a player not to love, but my heart, and my gut, just tells me that I've got a feeling about Chester. I don't know why, but there it is.

I hope you enjoyed this week's draft preview, and I'll be back next week with another batch, god willing and the creek don't rise, as they say. Until then, take care, everybody.

Also, I hope you'll forgive how late this post is; I had it done about half an hour ago, but something wonky is going on with the editor and I've been fighting to get things properly formatted ever since, especially the videos. Grr.