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2015 Draft Preview No. Fourteen: Educated in Flies

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Scouting a group of three collegiate outfielders as we get closer to draft day.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

So a funny-slash-irritating thing just happened to me a moment ago. As I was preparing to write this, I got to thinking about how long we have until the draft, and realised it's only just over a month away, meaning I've probably only got four or five more of these posts left to try and cover as many players as possible. It always sneaks up on me how close we're getting to draft day, and I probably need more than those four or five if I'm going to get anywhere close to as many players covered as I was hoping to this year. In fact, I'll probably have to use one or two of my Sunday slots on draft coverage as well, even though to this point I've tried to keep them separate. Wednesdays for draft stuff, Sundays for whatever else I happen to be thinking of at the moment. I'm still thinking that way, but draft stuff will probably spill over into a couple Sunday posts just due to time constraints.

That's not the funny-slash-irritating part; hopefully that story didn't sound like I was telling you realising we're in May already was the thing. What was funny-slash-irritating was this: as I was thinking about the calendar and how many posts I need to try and get in, I thought to myself, "You know, this would be way easier if I actually had a calendar in front of me to see how the weeks line up and everything."

Now here's the thing: I have a calendar hanging in my kitchen. Quite a nice one, as well; I bought it from a local record store this year. It's sort of and old style -- a wooden plank with a painting promoting the store, and then has the months printed on small pieces of paper stapled together down toward the bottom. When the month is over, you rip off the corresponding paper, and voila! the next month is printed on the paper below it. It looks cool, and it functions as, you know, an actual calendar. But, that's in the kitchen, and I'm sitting here in the spare bedroom where my desk is located. My phone, which has a calendar function on it, is also plugged in in the kitchen, charging. So I thought, well, I'll just pull up the calendar on the computer. Easier than walking however many feet it is, right?

So I pushed the little Windows button on my laptop (I have 8.1 installed, by the way), and that terrible start menu application thing opens up, and I click on the calendar app. Seems simple enough, right? Not so much.

The calendar starts to open, then wants to know my password. So I type in my computer lock password. Then it wants me to log in with my Microsoft ID, which I'm not sure I have. I mean, I have an Xbox 360 that hasn't been turned on in awhile, and I've downloaded stuff on there before. But I'm not completely sure. So I type in my gmail name and password, which is all I've ever used for anything. Nope. Not it. Maybe I used a different password than usual? Tried again with my ex-girlfriend's birthday that I used for AOL back in 1999 and carried over to a couple other accounts over the years because it's easy to remember. Nope, not that either. Tried my computer login. Nope. So after the third try, I gave up and googled "Calendar 2015", which led me to a web page that has the months of the year on it.

I don't want this to sound like a Dave Barry fractured take on modern life sort of thing, but it does seem strange to me that this laptop, which I paid quite a lot of actual money for and appears to be a miracle box in many ways, can't just show me a calendar. I feel like that's the sort of thing one shouldn't have to struggle to find.

Anyhow, looking at the calendar on timeanddate.com, which does exactly what its name would make you think it does, I see that, including today, I have five Wednesday posts between now and the draft. Looking at my list of players to cover and the like, I think I'll probably take two, maybe three Sundays for draft coverage as well. I'm not sure how many exactly yet, but I will definitely have to use a couple. I'm sure you don't particularly care about the schedule in my head all that much, but I thought I would put up a programming note just to keep everyone in the loop. And also tell you a story about how hard it is to find a calendar, apparently.

Moving on to the scouting reports, we have three college outfielders today.

Andrew Stevenson, OF, LSU

6'0", 180 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

So, what's so great about this guy?

There are elements of Andrew Stevenson's game which resemble both of the Cardinals' current center field options, and in fact, both of those elements are the good parts of those luminaries' respective games.

First, the Bourjos part: Andrew Stevenson is probably the best defensive center fielder in college baseball this year, and that's saying something considering some of the competition. His speed is plus, an easy 60 or maybe a tick better, but it's the instincts and jumps that really set him apart. It's hard to say he's as good as Bourjos out there, as Peter is one of the best in center I've ever seen (and I say that as someone who watched Jim Edmonds very, very closely), but I don't mind making the comparison. Stevenson has the sort of glove at a premium position that will almost certainly get him to the big leagues in some capacity, and could potentially make him a true impact player if the bat plays to even a modest level of ability.

Now, the Jon Jay part: Stevenson has above-average contact ability, is a left/left guy, and is capable of maneuvering the baseball around the diamond to get on base at a solid clip. He's also improved as a hitter each year at LSU, and is currently striking out in well under 10% of his plate appearances in the SEC, which bodes well for his future at the next level. He's fast enough to steal bases, and his instincts and reads have improved markedly in that area this year as well, going from a 9:5 SB:CS ratio his sophomore season to a 15:4 this year.

The bad parts for Stevenson are much the same as the bad parts for Jon Jay; specifically, the current version of Jon Jay that has no power, doesn't walk, and essentially relies entirely on putting the ball in play to generate offensive value. (And that's not me being critical, mind you; Jay mostly makes it work. It's just that there are limitations to that approach, and they're pretty significant.) Stevenson has nearly zero thump in his bat, and virtually all of his extra-base ability comes via his legs, where he can convert balls in the gap to doubles and triples on a fairly regular basis. He doesn't walk much at all, as even with his elite low strikeout rate, his BB% is even lower.

Stevenson even has a funky swing in common with Jay; it's an odd, old-style sort of setup, where he lays the bat back almost flat like Rod Carew or Tony Fernandez from the left side (at least, I think Fernandez did it that way; my memory could be betraying me), and has a lot of movement in the swing overall. The swing path is very flat, also, and will likely severely limit the amount of power Stevenson will ever be able to hit for.

I like Stevenson as a prospect, but I don't love him. He's an interesting case in the shape of a player's value, however, as in this modern era of decreased offense and sky-high strikeout rates, a guy with contact ability like his could be valued in a very different way than we might have seen, say, ten years ago. He and Kevin Newman, the Arizona shortstop with the plus hit tool but similarly non-existent power, could provide a very intriguing duo to analyse after the draft and as the years go on, at least to my eye, as we look to see how teams are going to adjust to the state of offense in the game. The best case scenario for Stevenson is probably a slappy sort of hitter who lives on putting a high percentage of balls in play and adds the bulk of his value via elite-level defense at a premium position. Barring a swing makeover and a significant change in approach, I don't see much more power coming from him. Nonetheless, he could have real value to a team picking in the supplemental or top half of the second round, albeit in an unorthodox package compared to some of what we've come to expect over the past couple decades.

via BPProspectTeam:

via LSU Tiger TV:

Steven Duggar, OF, Clemson University

6'2", 190 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Right

So, what's so great about this guy?

Duggar has some of the best pure footspeed of any player in this draft class, even eclipsing (and by a fair amount), the speed-and-defense Stevenson. Probably the fastest college player available, Duggar should contribute with his speed on both offense and defense. If, that is, he can get on base enough for his legs to do what they do.

And that's really the problem with Duggar: he hasn't much hit in college. And guys who don't hit in college very, very rarely hit in the pros.

In Duggar's defense, it isn't as if he hasn't hit at all; he's put up relatively solid batting averages in his college career, and his plate discipline/approach has improved each year, with this spring being easily the best he's ever looked in terms of getting on base. To wit, he's cut his strikeout rate from nearly 19% a year ago to just 14% this season, and upped his walk rate from just under 10% to an excellent 17.6%. For a player who hits for very, very little power, a walk rate that high is fairly remarkable.

Then again, the fact I have to specify, "for a player who hits for very, very little power," is a fairly worrisome statement. Duggar has plenty of size and strength to hit for more power, but to date the oomph just hasn't been there. His three home runs in 221 plate appearances this spring equals his total number from his first two years of college ball, and it isn't as if he's been a doubles machine while just not putting the ball over the fence, either. In fact, Duggar has never slugged even .400 in college, and while the BBCor bats have certainly moved college ball into a down offensive era from where it has been in the past, a career .379 slugging percentage at any level just isn't going to get it done.

It's a shame, too, as when Duggar does get on base, good things tend to happen. He can change a game with his legs, as evinced by his 25:3 SB:CS ratio from last year. A player with that kind of success swiping bases should make an impact; call it the Billy Hamilton Conundrum in trying to figure out where the break-even point on a guy who can't get on base but turns singles and walks into essentially doubles is.

There are not so many concerns with Duggar in the field, as his speed and a huge throwing arm allow him to make his presence felt in a positive way defensively. He has the speed for center, but has played a lot of right field at Clemson. One would hope to put him in center permanently in pro ball, where his speed should allow him to outrun any issues he may have with jumps or instincts or the like. I'll be honest; I haven't seen him play nearly enough to make any judgments about his fielding prowess, and am going mostly on reports. The speed and arm strength are apparent to see, but how he actually plays in the outfield I just don't have much feel for.

Any team taking Duggar in the draft is going to be betting on the improvements he's made with his approach this year carrying forward, and quite likely making some further changes to the swing and approach to try and tap into greater offensive production. I'm not a fan of his swing, but I'm not sure why. There's something about the way he loads the bat I'm not super enamoured of, and while I actually like the leg lift, he seems to be one of the rare cases when the hugely overused, "get your foot down earlier," bit of hitting advice might actually be a good idea.

The physical tools with Duggar are very much there for him to be a dynamic, disruptive presence in a club's lineup and an impact defender in either center or right field as a pro. The tools have yet to translate into skills the way one would hope, however, particularly on the offensive side of things, and so Duggar's production is, as of now, more hypothetical than actual. I could easily see betting on the speed and the athleticism, not to mention what appears to be a more patient, mature approach this year, but I worry if that athleticism doesn't soon start translating into more power better pitchers are simply going to knock the bat out of his hands, and whatever speed and defense he might contribute won't matter because he won't hit enough to make it out of Double A.

via Northeast Baseball Prospects:

Joe McCarthy, OF, University of Virginia

6'3", 225 lbs

Bats: Left

Throws: Left

So, what's so great about this guy?

Each of the first two players I've covered here today had much the same story to their scouting reports: could be impact players due to athleticism and defensive value, but there's real question how much they'll hit. Plus speed, premium position, questionable bats.

Joe McCarthy has a very, very different scouting report.

The first thing that needs to be said about McCarthy is that his bat is the tool that will get him to the big leagues, if indeed he is going to get there. The second thing that needs to be said is there's a chance that bat will be pretty special.

I know that Matt Carpenter currently has a little league-level camp he puts on, where kids can go and get tips and instruction from one of the best hitters in the big leagues. I fully expect there to be a generation of ridiculously patient, grinding hitters coming out of those camps. And when those campers grow up and go to college, they'll look just like Joe McCarthy.

McCarthy approach at the plate is sublime. He's walked nearly 50% more often than he's struck out in his college career, and while his strikeout rates have been higher than either of the other two hitters covered here, for a player who goes deep into nearly every count he can, it's very manageable. He rarely goes out of the zone, forcing pitchers to throw him hittable pitches, and when they do he very rarely swings and misses. It's all very Carpenterian, really.

There's something else that needs to be said about McCarthy at the plate: for a guy with his size and build, he doesn't hit for quite the power you might expect. Over the first two years of his college career, he put only ten balls over the fence (and none this year, but more on why in a moment), which isn't bad, but you see 6'3" and 225 and you expect there's maybe a little more thunder in the stick. He is, however, a high-doubles kind of hitter, giving him yet another Carpentery sort of trait we can all hang our collective hat on. He's also sneaky fast on the bases, stealing eleven bases each of his first two seasons and being caught only once both years. In short, you aren't getting a thumper with McCarthy, but you're getting a guy who gets on base at a tremendous clip (on-base percentage of .441 overall in college), can hit the gaps with a fair amount of regularity, and grinds out at-bats in a way designed to endear himself to those of us who wish every hitter played the game like, well, a certain third baseman whose name I will not invoke yet again. There's a lot to like about Joe McCarthy's offensive profile, is what I'm saying.

There are two big question marks for McCarthy, however. One is position, the other is health. At the best of times, he plays what looks like an average or perhaps a shade better corner outfield spot, but  the arm is likely to limit him to left field long-term. He doesn't have the speed to play center, despite the sneaky quickness in stealing bases. Fly balls tend to not get snuck/sneaked up on nearly so often as batteries. As for the health question, McCarthy has missed the majority of this season after having back surgery in January, and has only recently gotten on the field. He hasn't played particularly well yet, either, but it's tough to read too much into that when there's really no such thing as rehab assignments or minor leagues or much of anything for college baseball players to work their ways back from injury. Still, whether you worry about this year's performance on the field or not, the fact is McCarthy was off the field for much of the season, and not with a sprained ankle or pulled muscle or something that seems simply and temporary. Back injuries are scary, and they can become chronic in a way not so many other issues can. Hopefully he's beyond all that, but until he proves it, the back has to be a legitimate worry for any team thinking of drafting him.

I will say this: McCarthy's swing is extraordinarily simple, but I feel like he's almost a bit too passive with it at times, particularly with his lower body. Quiet in a swing is fantastic, but there's still a certain amount of energy one needs to generate, and I think a few tweaks to the way he loads his hands and a bit more incorporation of the legs could take McCarthy's offensive game to an even higher level.

The bottom line with McCarthy is this: his bat will likely be his carrying tool, but it's not a slam dunk it will be good enough to actually carry him. Limited to the weak end of the defensive spectrum, likely either a left fielder or first baseman long term, he'll have to hit at a high level to become and impact player. Personally, I feel like he should be able to do that, but I can certainly understand why there is a question. His profile overall feels similar to that of D.J. Stewar, the Florida State outfielder with whom I've become increasingly enamoured over the course of the spring, only a little less so. A little less power, a little less patience, and overall just a slightly less impressive hitter. However, Stewart is a certain first-round pick, while McCarthy, depending on how clubs feel about his health and performance this spring, could fall as far as the third round. If he did happen to drop due to concerns about the back or the numbers, he could represent a very good value pick as sort of an off-brand Stewart, a guy whose ability to get on base could make him an impact player even without the same kinds of physical tools some other players might have, a triumph of skill and approach over raw talent.

You know, sort of like Matt Carpenter.

via Jeff Reese:

Damn, this was a long one. I'll see you all on Sunday.