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2016 Draft Preview No. 21: Persons of Interest Two

Double the normal number of players scouted!

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Not much longer, folks.

Here's six players I find interesting for one reason or another.

C.J. Chatham, SS, Florida Atlantic University

6'4", 185 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Back in that historically great 2009 draft (specifically for the Cardinals, I mean), they took a chance in the fifth round on a tall, lanky, rangy shortstop from a Florida-based university (the U, to be exact), who had never really hit all that well. He could, however, play the position very well, and that level of quality at the toughest position on the field, sans catcher, got Ryan Jackson to the big leagues, at least for awhile, in spite of the fact he never hit after being drafted, same as he never really hit before.

Fast forward to the present day, and what we have here is a tall, lanky, rangy shortstop from a Florida-based university who has never really hit, but has basically no questions attached to his defensive ability. He's a shortstop, will stay a shortstop, and has a chance to be above average at the position, if perhaps something short of elite.

Actually, saying Chatham has never really hit isn't quite true: he's hit this year, and plenty. And in fact, he's always shown above-average contact skills, and a good understanding of the strike zone. The thing that holds Chatham back from being a good hitter is a lack of real, functional strength. His power is well below-average, and as a consequence not only does he not drive the ball consistently, but pitchers are unafraid to challenge him in the zone. If he could add enough strength to be a damage threat, there could be a very useful hitter here. As it is now, though, you're betting he'll play 55 defense at shortstop and make lots of contact. Which, hey, isn't a bad package at all. In fact, it's the sort of package I wouldn't mind seeing around the third or fourth round. At the very least, I think there's a good chance the glove alone gets Chatham to the big leagues at some point.

via NorthwoodsLeague:

Chad Hockin, RHP, Cal State Fullerton

6'2", 200 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

I wrote up Zack Burdi just the other day; Burdi is not only the top college reliever in the class this year, but also belongs to that tantalising class of relief pitchers who may, just may, have the stuff, both in terms of quality and variety, to perhaps make a conversion to starting.

Chad Hockin might be the next-best college reliever in this year's class (or one of a very small group contending for that position), but is cut from a more traditional cloth as far as closers go. Hockin is not a starting pitcher, and basically has never been one (at least not since he got to college), because he's a two-pitch beast with a high-effort delivery (though I don't completely hate his arm action, if I'm being honest), and questionable feel for pitching.

The good news is, those two pitches are very, very good. He'll touch 97 with his fastball, and it also shows hard sinking life. In fact, the fastball is much more of a groundball pitch than a swing and miss offering, as he pounds the bottom of the zone with it but rarely elevates or works off the plate. The slider, on the other hand, can get swings and misses, and also generates a ton of on-the-ground contact. Hockin lacks a changeup, but other than that has quite a lot in common with Joe Kelly. Think of the way Kelly's velocity suggested a high-strikeout pitcher, but instead he rolled up huge GB% numbers and would occasionally struggle to put hitters away. Hockin has a similar issue, though as a short reliever he can lean on a plus breaking ball more consistently than Kelly could in the rotation, and should miss more bats as a result.

Where Hockin will go in the draft is a very interesting question. His profile would suggest a quick-moving bullpen-only arm, and while there's value to that, I've become less sanguine over the years about spending high draft picks on relievers. He could also, however, represent a value signing for a club needing to move bonus money around, and so could end up higher on some boards than others based on potential savings.

via rkyosh007:

Anthony Herron, RHP, Jefferson College (MO)

6'0", 190 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

In the 2014 draft, the Cardinals selected a kid in the 34th round, and subsequently were unable to sign him. He was a smallish, wiry righthander out of Affton High School right here in the suburbs of St. Louis, who lived on athleticism and extremely intriguing arm speed.

Two years later, little has changed about Anthony Herron's stuff, or his stature. The former is still more than good enough to get him drafted, while the latter is what will keep him from being drafted as high as the stuff might dictate. He's put in two years at Jefferson College, a juco about two miles from where I grew up, and is committed to Missouri State should he once again slip through the draft without signing a minor league contract.

When he was pitching in high school, Herron worked mostly around 89, but showed occasional flashes of low- or even mid-90s heat. It just wasn't there consistently. That velocity has ticked upward this spring, as he now works more around 91-93, and mostly puts it where he wants. His best pitch is actually a splitter, which falls off the table and has led to huge strikeout numbers at Jeffco, and could make him an interesting fit as a reliever long term if he proves unable to start. He also features a curveball that still needs work and a straight changeup that fades but doesn't sink, and seems slightly extraneous give the quality of his split. I probably wouldn't advise him to drop the change, necessarily, as it does give a different look and is promising enough to keep around, but he needs development with both it and his curve if he's going to stay a starter.

The Cardinals liked Herron enough two years ago to at least take a flier on him; with two years of growth and observation I wonder if they wouldn't take another shot at him before he heads off to Springfield. I'm personally hoping they do; I like both the story of the local kid and Herron's profile specifically enough to spend a mid-round pick and whatever bonus is necessary to get him into the system.

Marc Coffers, OF/C, Baron Collier High School (FL)

6'0", 195 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Marc Coffers has shoulders.

No, I mean, like, seriously.

Marc Coffers has ridiculous shoulders.

They're like, Todd Wellemeyer levels of shoulders.

Just wanted to get that out of the way.

Shoulders aside, what I initially found intriguing about Marc Coffers when I saw him playing in the PG Nationals last June was the fact you had this kid who at seventeen was already a physical specimen, with what looked like big-time power potential and above-average footspeed, playing catcher. Anytime I see a guy behind the plate who, athletically, just doesn't look like he belongs crouching back there, my interest is pretty much automatically piqued.

Unfortunately, it appears that, at least for now, Coffers the catcher is not a going concern. He's played almost exclusively in the outfield at the showcases at which he has appeared since, and while I certainly don't know the full reasoning behind the move, I can say with a relatively high degree of confidence that there are really only two types of players who move off the catcher position: one, guys whose bats are too good to keep back there, due to injury risk or not wanting to slow the development of the player when the bat is close to ready, and two, guys who really aren't very good at catching. I think Marc Coffers has significant offensive upside, but he's not the kind of hitter you move so as to put him on the fast track. This isn't Bryce Harper or Alex Jackson, when on draft day the player is called out as something other than a catcher because nobody wants to wait around on the tools of ignorance when the stick of enlightenment appears to be in the offing. Thus, I'm forced to conclude Coffers was lacking in the positional ability.

All that being said, the fact he was a catcher in the past is certainly intriguing; if a club felt they had the staff in place to coach up a guy behind the plate, there might be an opportunity here. Or maybe not; it may be that Coffers himself is averse to catching.

Regardless, the things I liked about him as a catcher were a strong arm, unusual speed for the position, and an ability to make some very loud contact with the baseball when he stepped into the box. He still possesses those things now as an outfielder, and those tools are still fairly loud. He's an above-average runner, perhaps somewhat surprisingly so, given that he's built much like Mike Trout (and for the record, I'm not comparing him to Mike Trout, only the physical build, though Coffers is a couple inches shorter), and has the range to be a plus defender in either corner. The arm is plenty strong for right. I doubt he could play center field long term, but in a pinch you could surely do worse.

The power potential is what stands out the most in terms of offensive tools for Coffers, particularly to the opposite field. It's one of the things I tend to think translates exceptionally well up the ladder, and Coffers has shown at least an occasional ability to hit the ball over the wall going the other way. That being said, his swing needs work. It tends to get long, and a high start to the swing often leaves him going high to low, which is never a good thing. The physical tools give him big time potential; he's going to need quite a bit of coaching if he's ever going to get there, though.

A club drafting Coffers is going to be drafting the physicality; the raw athletic tools all in a compact, rather heavily muscled package are intriguing no matter what the position. For a team with the patience to potentially revamp the swing and roll with whatever position seems to offer the best fit long term, Coffers brings as much physical talent to the table as nearly any player in the draft this year. It's just a question of what the final product is going to look like.

via EvoShield Canes:

Jake Fraley, OF, LSU

6'0", 185 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

So, what's so great about this guy?

Sometimes you have to work to find a comp for a player. It isn't always easy to look at a kid no more than 21 and picture the major leaguer from your own misty past he really resembles. Sometimes it's not a great fit, and you're forced to qualify the comp with a dozen different little things that only sort of work, or really don't work, but....

And then there are times when the comp is easy. This is one of those times.

Jake Fraley is Darin Erstad. In pretty much every way.

Same plus speed, translating into opportunities on the bases and above-average (occasionally well above-average), range in the outfield. Same left/left profile, forcing an outfield or first base position. Same grinder mentality at the plate, with contact and patience both in significant quantities, but power lagging well behind. (Except for, you know, the fact Erstad hit close to 20 homers several seasons, but it was the late '90s. Weird things happened. Brady Anderson-type things.)

After playing corner outfield positions his first two seasons at LSU, Fraley took over as the full-time center fielder this season, and showed he was more than ready. His glove excelled; in fact, he was so good that plenty of scouts made positive allusions to his defense compared to the man he replaced, Andrew Stephenson, another all-glove no-hit speedster whose flytracking ability got him drafted in the second round last year despite having exactly two collegiate homers to his name.

Fraley's bat has more potential in it than Stevenson's, as he boasts more functional strength and a better swing plane than his predecessor at Baton Rouge, but it's still very much an open question how much he will hit in pro ball. He controls the strike zone very well, particularly considering the limited pop in his bat, but as always one has to be concerned whether he will have enough power to keep pitchers from simply challenging him without fear in the zone.

If he can clear that modest bar, there's plenty to like about Fraley's game. His combination of above-average defense at a premium position, on-base skills, and enough speed to add value once he's on those bases could make him very valuable. He hit well enough this spring, but didn't exactly break out offensively, and his stock may have, if anything, fallen a bit as a result. His skillset is very different from that of Harrison Bader, but he feels like a player whose profile has something in common with Bader's at this time last year, in that he's a college performer, coming out of a major conference (actually the major conference currently, in terms of quality of competition), who should be able to add value in multiple ways, but the numbers aren't loud enough to jump up and grab your attention in a huge way. This is the type of player the Cardinals pretty consistently seem to hit on, though, and get more from than was maybe expected.

via Jheremy Brown:

D.J. Peters, OF, Western Nevada College (JuCo)

6'6", 225 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Last year, one of the more surprising picks the Cardinals made was that of Kep Brown, a tall, power-hitting outfield prospect from a Carolina high school in the tenth round. It was surprising at least in large part because they took him in the tenth round, rather than the eleventh, and thus lost out on a portion of their bonus pool when they failed to come to terms with Brown and he headed off to a juco to hopefully reenter the draft sooner than later.

D.J. Peters is cut from a very similar bolt of cloth as Brown, only he's already done two seasons at a community college in Nevada. He's very tall -- like Jayson Werth tall -- and has the long levers that go along with that height. He also has big time raw power when he connects, hitting from a calm, spread-out stance. He's a much more patient hitter now than he was coming out of high school, as well, which bodes well for his future prospects.

The issue for Peters today, as it was two years ago when he first came up in the draft, is a question of how much contact he'll make. He falls into the category of a mistake hitter, capable of doing tremendous damage on pitches over the fat part of the plate, but beatable if the pitcher can avoid making those kinds of mistakes. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a hitter as tall as he is, Peters's biggest vulnerability comes on the inside part of the plate, where he has significant trouble dealing with plus velocity. When he cheats to try and get out in front of inside fastballs, he leaves himself vulnerable to soft stuff away. The bat speed is a bit above average, but not elite, and so perhaps he's always going to struggle with being tied up inside.

That being said, there is huge raw power in his swing, and an ability to drive the ball with authority to right-center field when he stays back and lets the ball travel. It's like Peters will always have contact questions, but solid-average defensive tools for a corner outfield spot, along with plus power on contact, can make up for an elevated strikeout rate pretty handily. I don't love Peters, but I do like him, and I think he could make for an intriguing overslot player in the 5th-8th rounds of the draft.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

And that's the second and final Persons of Interest post, everybody. There are still a ton of other players of this ilk I would like to highlight, guys like JB Woodman and Max Guzman and Jake Rogers and Reggie Lawson and Luis Curbelo and Nick Lodolo, but at a certain point you simply run out of time.

I'll see you all on Wednesday, when we'll be just one day away from the beginning of the 2016 draft.