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2015 Draft Preview No. 10: Flycatching Youth

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Another batch of draft scouting reports; this week's edition focuses on a trio of high school outfielders.

And that, my friends, is what you want a pitcher to look like.
And that, my friends, is what you want a pitcher to look like.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The good news is the Cardinals are still undefeated in 2015.

The bad news is the Tuesday evening game I should be watching as I type this has been postponed, and so there is no Cardinal baseball for the second day in a row, after only getting one actual game in so far this season. Needless to say, this situation has put me in a rather grumpy mood.

Of course, said grumpy mood is ameliorated somewhat by watching highlights of the Cards' opening night victory; I've probably watched Trevor Rosenthal strike out the side fifteen times since the moment it happened. And that GIF of Carlos Martinez's changeup more time than I can count, given it's only a second or two long. And Jason Heyward's three-hit night probably close to a dozen.

The sleeve of bright blue Peeps bunnies I'm currently munching on is helping to brighten my mood slightly, as well; colourful sugar-coated marshmallows are no one's idea of a healthful addition to a person's diet, but damned if Peeps aren't just the most cheerful treat in which a person can indulge.

As I am lacking anything in the way of a clever or insightful intro -- I had an idea, but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to think on the topic a bit more before deciding if it was intro material or an actual article -- what say we just jump right into the business of the day, shall we?

Today we have a trio of high-school outfielders. One will likely go in the top ten overall come draft day, one should go in the first two or three rounds, and one is a bit of a wild card.

Daz Cameron, OF, Eagle's Landing Christian Academy (Georgia)

6'1", 190 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

If you were to go back in time two years and look at all the projections for the 2015 draft, you would find Daz Cameron's name at the top of virtually every list. During his sophomore season, Cameron looked like a prohibitive favourite to go first overall; the kind of generational talent that would suggest the Nationals be picking at the top. Fast forward to the present day, and it looks more like Cameron may have just been an early bloomer, rather than an emerging Bryce Harper type, as his game has largely failed to take much in the way of a step forward since he turned sixteen.

Which isn't to say, mind you, that Daz Cameron isn't a very good prospect. He absolutely is, and there is every reason to believe he will be the first outfielder period to come off the board in June, never mind one in high school specifically.

The easiest way to tell you about Daz Cameron's game, honestly, is to tell you his father is Mike Cameron, and to further tell you the apple didn't fall far from the tree in this case. Oftentimes the children of ballplayers are not that alike to their sires, but receive the early-life experiences of which major leaguers are built; this is not one of those cases. This is more like Prince and Cecil Fielder. In other words, take Mike Cameron, the gliding, elegantly impactful defensive centerfielder with slightly plus power, and make him much, much younger. That's not exactly Daz Cameron, but it's certainly a strong place to start.

Like his father, Daz has good but not elite speed and is much better once he gets underway; he may not be a huge stolen base threat, but he'll run down more than his fair share of balls in the outfield. The arm is a tick above-average. The question of whether he possesses the same kinds of instincts as his father, the sort of instincts that make one a near-Hall of Fame caliber outfielder, is one we likely won't be able to answer for years. He looks good out there, is all I can say. How that translates remains to be seen.

At the plate, the younger Cameron may actually be a slightly better hitter than his father. Where Mike was a high-walk, high-strikeout guy who hit for above-average power for much of his career, Daz has better contact skills and a more spray-oriented approach at the plate. It's a nice swing, and I could see him hitting for fairly high batting averages at the big league level one day, simply because he has such good balance. On the downside, I doubt he ever develops more than average power, even if he does fill out and get stronger as he ages.

The baseball IQ is definitely there, as befitting the son of not only a ballplayer, but one of the headier stars of the last decade. No word yet on whether Daz prefers to keep his jersey tucked in after a win, however.

I'm not sure how high the ceiling really is for Daz Cameron, to be honest. In fact, if I were to say the words, "Pete Kozma," would you think I was crazy? Not the Pete Kozma we actually got, mind you; I'm talking about the Pete Kozma of Draft Day 2007. A player who does everything well, but doesn't possess one overriding tool so spectacular as to immediately grab one's attention. A player to whom the phrase 'five-tool' is applied as in, "five average-or-better tools," but for whom all five fall somewhere short of a true plus. A player who should stick at his current premium position, making him that much more likely to at least contribute something sometime down the line.

What looked like a possible emergent superstar two years ago in Daz Cameron has become an oddly safe-feeling high school prospect. He's mature for his age, has the on-field brain of a ballplayer's son, and does everything well enough you feel fairly confident he's going to make it to the show in some capacity -- again, sort of like Pete Kozma at the time he was drafted. Of course, where Kozma's bat completely failed to develop as a professional, we'll just have to wait and see what happens with Cameron's offensive skillset. He's as well-rounded a prospect as you're going to find in this year's draft, though, and that's going to get him taken very early.

via Baseball Factory:

Ryan Johnson, OF, College Station HS (Texas)

6'3", 210 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Ryan Johnson is going to hit. He's going to hit for both average and power, I believe, and is going to make whatever team selects him this June very happy with his offensive contributions in both the short- and longer-term.

There's a little Jay Bruce in Ryan Johnson, actually, although when he was drafted back in 2005 I believe Bruce was still playing center field; if I remember correctly the Cardinals drafted Colby Rasmus that year because they really wanted Jay Bruce, knew he wouldn't still be on the board, and identified the most similar player in the class to focus in on, that player being Rasmus.

Johnson is already a a big dude, with a thicker, mature build that will require some maintenance. He's well put-together for now, but also a bit soft, in that way that extremely strong men who fill out while still in their teens often are, and it wouldn't be hard to see him going the wrong way with his body and ending up at first base. Which would be a shame, because in addition to possessing a very exciting bat, Ryan Johnson also has a big arm that would make him a real weapon in a corner outfield spot when in comes to controlling baserunners. He doesn't have the speed to play center, but right field is easily within his grasp, at least for now. (See the above comment about conditioning.) On the other hand, this is also a guy who could get into a pro-level nutrition and conditioning program and come out five pounds heavier but looking like Yasiel Puig.

It's the potential in the bat that will get Johnson drafted. He has a natural stroke and the ball just has that sound coming off the bat, that sound that's instantly recognisable and makes scouts drool. He doesn't have to sell out to the pull side to generate power, and generally doesn't, preferring instead to pepper the middle of the field with hard line drives. I love the balance in his swing; he puts me in mind a bit of watching Christian Yelich back when he was a high school player, in the sense that there's a feeling one gets watching a truly natural hitter practice his craft. Yelich had that; Ryan Johnson does a bit for me as well.

So far, Johnson is actually flying a bit under the radar in the industry at large compared to my feelings about him. He's projected as a third-ish round pick, for the most part, while I like him as well as virtually any high school bat in the draft. Given a choice between him and Kyle Tucker, I would be hard pressed to make a decision, but there's a marked difference in their respective draft stocks for whatever reason. If Johnson does, in fact, end up as something more like a third- or fourth-round pick than a guy who goes no later than the supplemental round, he is going to be a huge bargain for some team, mark my words. Somewhat strangely for a player from College Station, he's committed to TCU, which isn't the easiest commitment to talk a player out of, so there could be a bit of signability that comes into play. Even if that's the case, though, this is a talent likely to be worth the investment, in my ever-so-humble opinion.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

Demi Orimoloye, OF, St. Matthew's HS (Ontario)

6'4", 225 lbs

Bats: Right

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

I'm going to make a comparison for Demi Orimoloye, and I don't want to.

I don't want to because I try very hard to make comps for players across racial lines. It is, of course, a tired old trope in baseball that players are only comped to players of the same race, and if I can, I always try to break out of that. To look at the tools and the skills and ignore the physical appearance and try to come up with a player I feel really represents a good point of reference for the guy I'm talking about, rather than one who just happens to look really similar. However, in this particular case, I can't honestly come up with a better comp for Orimoloye. I just want everyone to know I really did try to come up with a better player to slap on him than a guy who just happens to look really similar.

Demi Orimoloye = Austin Wilson.

Wilson, you may remember, was the uber-athletic outfield prospect the Cardinals drafted in the thirteenth round way back in 2010 and attempted to talk out of what was, by all accounts, a virtually ironclad commitment to Stanford. They were unable to sign him, and Wilson, after spending three years in Northern California, became a first-round pick in 2013. He's currently a top ten prospect in the Mariners' system, albeit one who is still a bit more raw than you would expect from a major college product.

Orimoloye has remarkably similar physical attributes to Wilson, with plus-plus power potential, a big right field arm, above-average speed, and a huge, raw-boned frame that's easy to dream on. If anything, though, Orimoloye is even more raw than Wilson was as a player at a similar age, the result of growing up in Canada and playing multiple sports throughout his high school career. He's committed to play baseball at Oregon if he doesn't go pro out of the draft, and honestly, as much as I'm usually in favour of players taking their talents to the minors over college nearly every time for their own development, this might be the rare case I would say the player has as much or more to gain in college as in the pros.

If it all comes together for Orimoloye, he's an absolutely prototypical right fielder. He has the power and speed in combination to be a 20/20 sort of player, if not 30/30, though projecting that level of performance on a guy seems hugely unfair. The problem is a real lack of baseball-specific skills at this point; he can hit the ball a mile on a mistake pitch, but the approach at the plate leaves plenty to be desired. He's got plenty of speed, but is, at best, an fringe-average defender in right because he hasn't yet gotten the reps to develop good instincts in the outfield.

With such a steep developmental climb ahead of him, you might think I would be more adamant than ever that Orimoloye get into pro ball immediately to begin chipping away at the mountain of things he needs to learn and polish before he's ready for prime time as a baseball player. However, in this particular case, I actually think it might benefit the player more to go to a major college program and do some developing there before jumping into pro ball. As much as the minor leagues are the best place to develop a baseball player into a better baseball player, they can also be a brutally difficult place to make your way in the world, and for a guy like Orimoloye I think he might be better off finding out in college if he even truly wants to be a baseball player before being thrown into the crucible to sink or swim immediately. Of course, if he's fully committed to turning pro, then developing in the minors is probably the best course of action. But for a player as raw as Orimoloye, I might honestly counsel college first.

For all my misgivings about how raw he is, though, the upside for Orimoloye is ridiculous. And if a team believes he's ready to take that plunge, both in terms of willingness to sign a pro contract and the mindset to handle the grind of pro ball, that team shouldn't hesitate to take him as high as they need to in order to get him.

via PerfectGameBaseball:

And just for reference, this is Wilson all the way back as a junior in high school:

via farmsystem

I really like all three players here today. Both Cameron and Johnson I like as pro prospects right now who could make real impacts in the next three to five years; I probably lean Johnson just a shade because, as much as I like the premium position and all-around game of Cameron, I think Johnson has the potential to be a really special hitter down the road. I also think you've got a chance to nab Johnson much, much later than Cameron and thus score a huge bargain in terms of the value of the pick spent on him. Orimoloye I love for the tools, but he's a different sort of draft prospect, and a risky enough bet I can't give an unequivocal endorsement of just yet. Like I said, I could easily see him going to college and becoming a top ten overall prospect in three years, and that might very well be the best possible outcome for him in the long run.

I'll be back on Sunday; as of this week I am officially going to two days a week here. Draft reports will continue to flow on Wednesdays, while my weekend spot will generally be used for whatever other topic I have on my mind in a given week. See you then, all. Hopefully the rain stops long enough for some actual baseball to be played soon.