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2015 Draft Preview No. 18: Persons of Interest Two (Bats)

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Six non-first round type bats, but all of them intriguing in one way or another.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

There was a really interesting piece over at Beyond the Box Score yesterday, all about Matt Carpenter and his newly-discovered power stroke we've been enjoying so far this year. (And yes, that sentence did come out sounding a bit dirtier than I meant.) The author's conclusion is that this new power surge might - might! -- be legitimate, since Carpenter is, in fact, doing some interesting things this year he's never really done before, specifically related to batted-ball percentages and things like that. I'll let you all read the piece for yourselves; it's more than worth the price of admission.

Speaking of formerly-fringy hitting prospects who made good in a big way, what I've got here today is a group of not-so-famous hitters for the draft. Okay, so yes, that's a terrible segue. You want a good segue? Or just generally competent writing in general? Welp, you're going to have to look elsewhere. For now, you're stuck with me.

As always in the persons of interest posts, we've got six players here, all of which I'll be covering in rapid-fire format. (And even slightly more rapid-fire than usual this morning, as I didn't get started on this as early as I had planned.)

Scott Kingery, 2B, University of Arizona

5'11", 175 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

I've already covered Kevin Newman, the talented Arizona shortstop with the remarkable bat control, in a full scouting report and a bit of extra conversation elsewhere. He's considered to be one of the best pure hitters in the class, and a near-lock to put up the kind of batting average that can move a player up the ladder in a big hurry, and while there are questions about his best fit defensively, he should be able to handle a tough enough position for his offense to play easily.

Now what if I were to tell you Newman, a first-round lock at this point (or nearly so, anyway), hasn't been the best hitter, not only on his own team, but just in his own middle infield? Because that's the situation. And it isn't really all that close.

Scott Kingery, the less-heralded double play partner of Newman, has outhit him this spring, by quite a lot. To the tune of a 1.215 OPS, to be exact, compared to Newman's paltry .922. It's good to play the infield in Arizona, apparently.

Kingery has two plus tools: he can really hit, particularly in terms of pure ball-barreling ability, and he can run. He's put up a .248 ISO this season, based mostly on large numbers of doubles and triples, and while he certainly has gap power, his speed is a definite factor in all those extra bases.

Beyond the bat and the legs, the tools are questionable. The arm probably limits him to the right side of the infield, and the glove is just average at second. He's not big (that 5'11" is probably a little overstated, in typical player listing fashion), and there's probably a pretty hard cap on the amount of functional strength he's going to be able to add. He virtually never takes a walk, either, although he still boasts a near 1:1 K:BB ratio thanks to the ridiculous contact ability.

Kingery has moved up draft boards significantly this spring; hitting .467 will tend to do that for you. He's a college performer in a big way, and while he probably can't move further up the spectrum than second base, there's also little reason to believe he'll need to move further down. He isn't a tools monster, by any means, but Scott Kingery is a hitter. And I've said it before: there's one thing you can always count on a hitter to do, and that's hit. And if you can hit, you can play.

via Arizona Baseball:

Cole Rutherford, 1B, Orange Coast College

6'4", 240 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Cole Rutherford is a huge guy, and he hits very much like a huge guy. Absolute top-end raw power, probably a 65 or maybe even a 70. We hear constantly how rare and in-demand right-handed power is in the game right now, and while I tend to think the fixation on one particular variety of power or skill is detrimental in the big-picture sense, the fact is that power bats, especially those from the right side, are tough to find these days. And that's exactly what Rutherford offers.

Beyond the power, though, Rutherford is a very limited player. He's not a great athlete, and while he has soft hands and a stronger arm than usual for a first baseman, he's not the most nimble player, due in large to the fact he's simply an enormous individual. There's a lot of swing and miss to his game, as well, as his contact skills are iffy. The contact will be the biggest obstacle for Rutherford, in fact; how much he can develop the hit tool will essentially dictate how much of that tremendous raw power he's able to tap into.

The quality of competition is a big question for Rutherford, as well; Orange Coast College is a community college in Southern California, so this isn't a player going against D1 talent on a daily basis. Then again, how many of us had heard of Slippery Rock before Matt Adams was drafted from there? If a player has the talent, it doesn't matter where he comes from, although of course trying to evaluate a guy against competition of such a low level is much, much tougher.

Rutherford is very much a one-tool prospect; if he's going to add value it's going to come by way of the power in his bat. And even that's not a guarantee, as this is a player with some pretty serious contact issues. Still, you're not going to find many players who can hit a baseball farther than Cole Rutherford, and if a team believes in his ability to improve his contact rate he would certainly seem to be worth a late-round gamble.

via The Prospect Pipeline

Garrett Dean, C, Riverside City College (CA)

5'8", 185 lbs

Bats; Left

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Another player from a tiny community college in SoCal, Dean is a skilled receiver with excellent contact skills from the left side of the plate, a combination that absolutely should get him some attention from teams looking for value in the later rounds.

He has solid catch and throw skills, with a touch above-average arm he complements well with a quick release and accuracy, and earns raves from every coach I contacted for his receiving. I wish I could say I've seen him enough to make my own judgments on that front, but I can't. For what it's worth, though, speaking off the record I heard from a few people I contacted who talked about how soft and quiet his hands are, and how confidently he handles a pitching staff. Grains of salt and all, but this is a pretty deep cut as far as draftees go, and seeing as how big a deal pitch-framing and the like has become in recent years, a positive report on a catcher's hands is a meaningful thing.

At the plate, Dean has a simple, line-drive swing from the left that allows him to make contact easily and spray line drives to all fields. He has very little power to speak of, which limits the ceiling, but the contact skills are above-average to be sure.

I'm not going to lie: it's a bad body. Short and squat, Dean looks every bit a catcher, and his overall athletic tools are fairly limited. He's likely no better than a backup if he hits his ceiling, but good hands and an ability to put the bat on the ball can go a long way when you're talking about the toughest position on the diamond to fill.

Greg Pickett, OF/1B, Legend High School (CO)

6'4", 220 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

So, what's so great about this guy?

Much as with Cole Rutherford above, the big draw with Greg Pickett is the huge raw power he's displayed on the showcase circuit. Overall, though, he's a better athlete than Rutherford, and has a chance to become a good all-around player, if not exactly a five-tool sort of athlete.

Pickett has all the tools to be an impact hitter, both in terms of contact and power, as has excellent balance in his swing and already boasts an approach well beyond his years. There's a bit of Josh Hamilton in his swing, and I think this is a bat to bet on. He's a good athlete for his size, but he's a slightly below-average runner, limited in his defensive possibilities. He does have a big arm, but there's still the possibility he ends up in left field or over at first base.

It doesn't look like Pickett has any weaknesses so glaring he won't be able to contribute, but any team drafting him is very much betting on the bat. He reminds me a bit of Justin Bellinger, the high school first baseman the Cardinals took in the eleventh round last year but were unable to come to terms with after their third-round selection decided to return to school, costing them a large chunk of signing bonus money. Pickett is probably a slightly better athlete overall than Bellinger, with a good chance to play an adequate corner outfield, but it's a similar situation of drafting an athletically limited high schooler and hoping the bat turns into what it looks like it could be, to the point he simply outhits his other limitations.

Personally, I'm a believer in Pickett's bat, and would be plenty excited to hear his name called by the Cardinals somewhere around when they took Bellinger last year. He'd be a great overslot bet later in the draft, I think, and a way to immediately inject some real power potential into a system sorely lacking it.

via FanGraphs:

Jonathan India, SS/2B, American Heritage High School (FL)

6'0", 190 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

India is cut from the same sort of cloth as Pete Kozma, in that he's a middle infielder whose defining characteristic is really a lack of one carrying tool. Rather, India, like Kozma, does pretty much everything well across the board, without any one ability standing out well above the others.

India also has a reputation as a grinder, and one of the hardest workers you could ever ask for. The words, "baseball rat," seem particularly appropriate. I don't know how much that matters, but it certainly can't hurt that this is a young man who refuses to be outworked.

The arm is plenty strong for shortstop, but there's a chance India could end up a little short on range if he slows down as he fills out. I made the comparison to Kozma a moment ago; India's frame is similar, but a bit thicker naturally, which gives him the potential for a bit more strength, but also is maybe a little less prototypical for a middle infielder. Still, for now he moves plenty well enough to stay at short, and any team selecting him will almost certainly give him a shot to play his way off the position, rather than making the decision before it's necessary.

The swing is simple and geared toward contact, though India has enough strength and batspeed that there's some power potential here as well. Probably never more than a 45 grade, though, which is just fine for a guy playing a premium position.

If India is going to make it as a professional, it will likely look something like the version of Pete Kozma the Cardinals hoped they were drafting all those years ago. A player who can stick at shortstop, does everything at an average or slightly above level, and combines a wide range of purely average or slightly above tools into a package that is more than average, defined by a lack of weakness and instinctive, heady play that helps elevate what he's capable of. He wouldn't be my first choice, certainly, as I think there are a fair number of similar players at elite position with better tools to hang one's hat on, but that's not to say I don't think India has a chance.

Braden Bishop, OF, University of Washington

6'1", 188 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Braden Bishop is very similar to Peter Bourjos, in that he's an elite defender in center field with plus or even plus-plus speed and a questionable bat. We've seen how valuable a player like that can be, if they can match even a relatively low bar of offensive performance, no matter how reluctant a manager might be to use them.

There are a handful of players in the draft this year who might be faster than Bishop, but very few -- possibly none -- who are capable of covering more ground in the outfield, as he can eat up vast swaths of turf when he gets going. He's quick enough in short bursts to steal bases, as well, and has shown an ability to do so at an elite level of success in his college career, though this season he's been slowed a bit by a couple nagging injuries from what I understand.

How much he'll hit is very much in question, as he doesn't make enough contact to profile as a top of the order guy, nor does he have the power to justify the empty swings. As much of a fan of Bourjos as I am, you might think I would be a bigger believer in Bishop, but I'm very skeptical he's ever going to have real offensive value. Bourjos at least has enough of that weird wiry strength he can run into a home run now and again; I have my doubts Bishop will ever be a real threat at the plate. Bottom line on him, I think you're drafting a position only. He could have great value as a defender, however; maybe enough to be a real contributor in spite of the weak bat.

via Moore Baseball:

Have a happy Memorial Day, everyone. And stay off the roads if you don't belong on them; it's dangerous enough out there watching for the other guy, without being a problem yourself. Be careful out there, and take care of yourselves.