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2014 Draft Preview, John Hughes Edition: Persons of Interest Two

Double the players, but only half the rambling.

This is a funny picture.
This is a funny picture.
Scott Cunningham

Watching this team hit right now is, quite honestly, more than just disappointing or frustrating. It's actually a little embarrassing. Maybe I'm overstating it, but that's how I feel. It's embarrassing to watch how inept this baseball team is at putting runs on the scoreboard.

You know what's even more embarrassing than watching the offensive failings night after night? Watching the manager do such maddeningly dumb things on a consistent basis. Things like, the night after watching Peter Bourjos get on base twice (admittedly, he didn't exactly scorch the ball, but hey, we saw the good things that can happen once you have that kind of speed on the basepaths, also), and make a game-saving catch (seriously, is there any doubt at all that what looked like a very nice but fairly simple catch for Bourjos is ten feet over Jon Jay's head on the way to the wall, scoring the first run of the night?), once again penciling in Jay's name while telling the beat reporter how much he would love to have a lineup he could just stick out there for 162 games. Which, of course, one could have if one were willing to actually pay attention to which players are contributing in a positive way. Or stating in the same breath how important it is to keep Jon Jay involved in the center field mix, which, obviously, he hasn't been, since his starts have been so sporadic while Bourjos was bogarting all the playing time in center with his thirteen plate appearances in the last week and a half.

I was never a huge fan of Tony La Russa. I respected him in a lot of ways, but there were tons of things he did that drove me bonkers. Feuding with players through the media. Leaning on veteran players so heavily, at times I felt to the detriment of younger talent. And the bullpen, oh, the bullpen. La Russa was once called the Mozart of Overmanaging, and I can get behind that. Personally, I might go with Mozart's longtime rival Salieri, the endlessly complex and often downright experimental nature of his compositions working to the occasional detriment of the work itself. Either way, though, really.

If Tony La Russa was the managerial equivalent of, say, Axur, Re d'Ormus, then Mike Matheny is a doink sound effect in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

I've got six players queued up for the day, complete with very short, almost bite-sized scouting reports. No first-rounder here, mind you, but players I find interesting for one reason or another. It's a group heavy on pitching, again, which is just how the draft is this year, and specifically, left-handed high school pitching. It's beyond ridiculous how many extraordinarily talented young hurlers there are in this particular demographic this year.

Devin Smeltzer, LHP, Bishop Eustace Prep (New Jersey)

6'2", 170 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

So, what's so great about this guy?

Well, let me start off with my favourite thing about Devin Smeltzer: the glasses. He's got the Joe Kelly/K-Rod goggles look going on, which is just one step down from the Kent Tekulve early-80s shop teacher glasses look. So there's that.

As far as the actual pitching stuff goes, the first thing to note about Smeltzer is the funky, deceptive crossfire delivery, very reminiscent of Sean Burnett, which makes him absolute death on left-handed hitters. He works in the upper 80s with his fastball, and complements it with a wide, sweeping slurve that might best be described as panoramic. He has a changeup as well, though it's a distant third pitch, and the combination of a deceptive-but-risky delivery and a wicked breaking ball would make it easy to project future relief duty for Smeltzer. I would give him every opportunity to start first, of course, but if I'm being honest, I think there's a good chance Devin Smeltzer's best role in pro ball seven years from now is coming in to strike out Anthony Rizzo.

He's slight of build for now, but with enough size to his frame he could easily add 30 lbs of weight, and maybe as he fills out the velocity ticks up and his stuff overall takes a step forward. He also has phenomenal makeup, having survived cancer at nine years old and since dedicating much of his time to helping other kids similarly afflicted along the way. It's easy to root for a guy like this, is what I'm saying. I don't think the upside is there to use an early-round pick on him, but I do think there's a very real chance Smeltzer could see the big leagues, especially in a role that takes advantage of the things he does best.

Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (Florida)

6'5", 190 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

So, what's so great about this guy?

I'm a big fan of Foster Griffin. He has one of the loosest, fastest arms in the draft this year, and a delivery that I think bodes well for his long-term durability. Looking at his arm action, I honestly flash on pitchers from a bygone era, guys who worked from full windups, windmilling their way to 350 inning seasons on a regular basis. Not that I would ask him to throw 350 innings, of course, but there's something in the way he throws that puts me in mind of grainy black and white footage, sans the high socks. (Sadly.)

Griffin's repertoire consists of a fastball that typically sits in the 90-92 range and has been up to 94, a curve I really like, and a changeup that is, to my eye, an easy plus offering down the road. His command is rough right now, but the athleticism is there, and as Griffin grows into his body I think it will improve markedly.

He's not exactly a sleeper; he did take part in the Perfect Game All-American Classic last summer. But, for whatever reason, Griffin comes into the draft with a fairly low level of fanfare, and he's a guy I'm absolutely betting on being a huge steal for the team smart enough to pop him in the third or fourth round and buy him out of a commitment to Ole Miss.

Oh, and for reference, this is what I'm talking about with the arm action.

Cameron Bishop, LHP, Brea Olinda High School (California)

6'4", 215 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

So, what's so great about this guy?

Last year, Robert Kaminsky was my very favourite pitcher in the draft, for a couple reasons. The biggest was what I thought of his repertoire, but there was also a mechanical element, in that I felt like he was a pitcher who was extremely inefficient mechanically. And, while that mechanical inefficiency may be a present minus, I felt like if a team could iron out his delivery and get him to use his whole body more efficiently his already-impressive stuff could take even a further leap forward.

There's a similar thought here, in what I find intriguing about Cameron Bishop. He's a big, strong kid whose fastball has already been up into the low-90s, though it typically sits more in the 88 mph range most days. He's got a decent curveball, though looking at his arm slot I feel like a slider might be a more effective choice. So the stuff is already fairly good, particularly when you consider he's still got room to fill out and get stronger.

Where he's similar to Kaminsky, in my mind, is the fact I think his delivery is really, really inefficient, and he's doing most of the work when he throws entirely with his arm. He never really gets all the way through his delivery onto his front leg, staying back and sort of throwing against his body. He's doing far more work than he needs to in order to generate power, and I feel like a few fairly simple improvements mechanically could make a big difference in the quality of Bishop's stuff.

Again, this isn't a pitcher who is going to go in the first round or two; he's committed to UC Irvine, and I think there's a decent chance he'll actually end up going there. But I think there's an opportunity here, to take a pitcher with plenty of arm strength and work out a few kinks that are keeping him from fully tapping into it. He isn't my favourite pitcher, but I think it could be a bet worth placing.

Jonathan Teaney, RHP, Quartz Hill High School (California)

6'1", 170 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Teaney is extremely athletic, which in my book is always a huge plus for a pitching prospect. He's got a quick arm and an ability to spin the ball, too, which are a couple of other marks in the plus column.

He's a high-energy guy on the mound, with a very fast delivery that I might think of trying to tone down a bit if I were a team drafting him, but maybe not. He works in the low 90s with the fastball, and backs it up with a slider that has exceptional depth and some real power as well. There's no changeup to speak of just yet, but the one-two punch of his fastball and breaker is more than enough to overmatch hitters at his age level. I see a little Jordan Swagerty in Teaney; the slightly undersized frame, the aggressive tempo, the wipeout breaking ball. Hopefully Teaney can avoid the same kind of injury issues that have plagued Swagerty basically since he entered pro ball.

Teaney is commited to San Diego, which could make him a little bit of a tough sign. The athleticism and arm speed are both big pluses for me, though, if a team wanted to pop him in the round 5-10 range and go overslot to bring him in to pro ball.

Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit West High School (Missouri)

6'4", 180 lbs

Bats: Switch

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Harrison, coming out of Trevor Rosenthal's neck of the woods, is one of the top multi-sport athletes in the draft this year. He's committed to Nebraska, both baseball and football, and is probably a better wide receiver prospect at this point than he is an outfielder.

That being said, all the good stuff that usually applies to multi-sport guys is present with Harrison. He has plus tools in four of the five areas, with raw power, a big arm, and the speed to run balls down in the outfield. Right now, he's fast enough to play center field, but even if he slows down as he gets bigger, he profiles perfectly in right, where his arm would be a real weapon.

The one tool Harrison really lacks at this point is the bat. His pitch recognition needs plenty of work, and he's prone to striking out in bunches. Again, it's the story we always hear with multi-sport athletes; they've never focused exclusively on baseball, and so the highest-level skills of the game are typically not there just yet. Bubba Starling had the same questions attached when he came into the draft. Actually, that's not a bad comp for Harrison, though he might actually be even more raw than Starling was as a prep player.

If you're drafting a player like Monte Harrison, you're betting on the upside, hoping that once he focuses on baseball full-time he'll be able to improve the areas he's lacking. Personally, while I love the athleticism here, I have my doubts about Harrison long-term, and think it would probably be best if he did, in fact, end up at Nebraska. But that's just one man's opinion, and I'm sure some team will look at the body, and the raw ability, and believe they can mold him into a baseball player.

Alex Blandino, 3B, Stanford

6'0", 190 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Okay, so let me know if this sounds familiar: a Stanford third baseman, with a very mature, well-developed approach at the plate. He shows a very good feel for hitting and an ability to hit to all fields, but not a ton of power. Had a very good run in the Cape Cod League last summer, proving his swing should transition to wood bats with no problem.

If you said, "Hey, that sounds like Stephen Piscotty!" then congratulations, you're paying attention. Good job.

The story with Blandino is the same as it is with most Stanford hitters: he's got the good approach and balanced hit profile, but the power is a big question mark. He also doesn't have Piscotty's size and strength, so projecting him to hit for plus power even with some swing tweaks isn't nearly so sure a thing. On the other hand, Piscotty's biggest weakness, the fact he was a third baseman in name only and was already playing mostly right field by the time he was drafted, isn't an issue with Blandino. He's a solid defensive third baseman, with a strong arm and very good hands, and he's played some second base in the past as well. Personally, I think he's a better fit at the hot corner, as I'm not sure he has the range to play up the middle, but the idea he could move to the keystone permanently isn't a complete nonstarter, by any means.

Blandino isn't a guy I'm particularly high on, to be honest. I was fully on board with Piscotty, as I believed his hitting ability was so special that a lot of the other areas of his game that weren't so great could be papered over. Blandino, while also a very solid hitter, has more the feel of Zack Cox to me; a tweener who may ultimately be a little short on power and not be able to Rod Carew his way past it. Then again, Cape Cod League success does seem to be a fairly decent predictor of future potential, so I reserve the right to be completely wrong about him.

Okay, folks, we're coming down to the home stretch here, with just a month left until the draft. I'm certainly getting excited; I feel like I've covered enough players this year it's going to be really, really difficult for the Cardinals to draft a player I haven't written about in the first round, as they've managed to several other years. I hope you've enjoyed this coverage; I certainly enjoy doing them. I also hope you feel like you know more going into the draft this year than you might have otherwise.