MLB Draft 2011 Prospects: An Early Look
I was in town for the four-day event in St. Petersburg, Fla. this week alongside seemingly every scout in the country. Overall, the biggest impression I came away with was that while this high school class is far from loaded, there are certainly some exciting talents at the top that are already making some noise.
At this early stage, it's all about developing a follow list. Each scout in attendance was merely trying to figure out which of the 250-plus players in attendance should be monitored as potential draft picks come next June. My goal was very similar. With so many players in attendance, it's difficult to evaluate them with any degree of detail, but I was able to identify several potential high picks for 2011. Here are just some of the names topping my early 2011 MLB Draft follow list, after scouting the first big event of the year.
Daniel Norris, LHP: It would be sin to mention the 2011 class without first mentioning Norris. Fellow top arms Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley were unable to attend the event, but even with that in mind, it's going to be hard to surpass Norris as the top prep player in the class.
Norris showcased a 93-95 mph fastball, a plus downer curveball at 73-74 mph, and a quality low-80s changeup. This kid is the full package, and he showed a nice feel for pitching. This is the best left-handed pitching prospect to come along in the draft in a couple years.
Dylan Davis, RHP: As far as pure arm strength, Davis was right there behind Norris, and he actually may be right behind him as the next best overall prep pitching prospect as well. Sitting 93-94 mph with his heavy moving fastball, reaching 95 a couple times, Davis was a man among boys at this event. He's not a big guy, but the velocity comes rather easily and he has a nice feel for a little tight slider as well.
Christian Montgomery, RHP: This is going to be a very intriguing and polarizing guy to follow. To put it simply, the body is not pretty. Montgomery is soft in the mid-section, but he also has quite an arm and quite a feel for pitching. He sat consistently at 91-92 mph, hitting 93 mph multiples times and peaking at 94. He also has command of a potential plus breaking ball and pitches at a very mature level. Conditioning and body type will be a concern, though.
Deshorn Lake, RHP: Another power arm, Lake is a little more inconsistent than the arms above him. He works from a smooth delivery but the velocity is a bit erratic. He sat consistently at 92-93 mph in his first inning of work, but dipped to 89-91 in his second inning and struggled from the stretch. The arm strength and delivery are very encouraging, but Lake is not without his share of issues.
Dillon Maples, RHP: Another very live arm, there is a ton to like about this wiry, athletic right-hander. Maples worked at 91-94 with his fastball and showed a very fast arm and an interesting, but inconsistent 80-81 mph slider. There are some issues with the delivery, but the arm speed looked outstanding and there is potential for growth.
Joe Ross, RHP: The brother of Tyson Ross, a second-round pick in 2008, younger brother Joe may have the talent to go even higher in the 2011 draft. Ross pumped in 92-94 mph fastballs in his PG National outing and was one of the most consistent and polished arms at the event.
Hudson Boyd, RHP: A big, burly righty, Boyd is another guy whose body I have some concerns about. Bu the concerns end there because Boyd was one of the more complete pitchers at the event, otherwise. He has a nice, balanced delivery and uses his strong lower half well. The natural comparison for him right now is Joba Chamberlain. He sits 92-93 mph with the fastball, which also has some big, late life up in the zone. Couple that with his 77-80 mph slider and he has the potential for two swing-and-miss pitches.
Phillip Evans, SS: Of all the position players at the event, I came away most impressed with Evans. Not one of his tools was the best, but the total package was fantastic. He's polished, very under control at the plate and has lightning-quick hands through the zone. In the field, he has good range, soft hands and more than enough arm to stick at shortstop. Against top-level pitching, he hit consistent line drives to all parts of the field. This kid is well schooled, and has the look of a .300-hitting, big-league shortstop. Those don't come along often.
Joshua Tobias, IF: If electric tools are what you desire, look no further than Tobias. A switch-hitter, Tobias is far superior from the right side and showed off plus big-league power and outstanding bat speed. The swing is very compact, and he gets to the pitch inside as quickly as any player at the event. Consider also that he was probably also the fastest player at the event. Guys who can fly and hit the ball out of the park are a rarity, so this kid will be exciting to watch.
Travis Harrison, OF: At the moment, Harrison is probably the most potent offensive force in the prep class. He already approaches hitting like a professional, and he has the physique of a big-league player. Harrison is going to hit for plus power at the big-league level, and he has a grind-it-out mentality at the dish.
Wallace Gonzalez, OF: Take one look at Gonzalez and you will think of Michael Stanton. He has a long way to go before he is at Stanton's level, but his rangy frame and big raw power at the plate makes him a fascinating guy to watch. He's more crude than some of the guys previously mentioned, but the framework is there for an offensive stud.
Tyler Greene, SS: Like Tobias, Greene is just tools galore. His batting practice is as impressive as any you will see from a high school player, he has a strong arm and he ran as well as anyone at the event. He had some problems with the breaking ball in game action, but his wiry strong frame, ability in the field, and big-time power at the dish could make him a first-rounder next June.
Christian Lopes, IF: Like Evans, Lopes is really the total package. He showed big raw power and legitimate in-game power very consistently in St. Pete. He's an athletic kid with good speed, and he has the arm for shortstop or third base.
Chris McFarland, SS: The more I saw of McFarland, the more I came to like him. He hit as well as anyone in live game action, and showed off a very mature approach. Consistently using the whole field, McFarland sprayed line drives with authority against elite competition. I'll need to see more of him at shortstop, but the speed and athleticism was very apparent as well.
Blake Swihart, C: Swihart was easily the most impressive catcher at the event for me. He threw the ball consistently on-line from behind the dish and posted impressive pop times, but the real attraction is at the plate. He showed easy, towering power and showed the ability to use the whole field. This is a kid that makes the game look easy, and is the type of talent that tends to go very high in the draft.
Obviously, there were a quite a few other players that caught my eye in St. Petersburg, and this is merely a glimpse of a handful of guys with whom I was particularly impressed. There are plenty more that were omitted that deserve high praise and there are dozens of other high-level follows, but it's impossible to touch on them all at once. At first glance, this doesn't appear to be a very strong prep class, but of course it's tremendously early and a lot can happen. After this first major event, my follow list currently stands at 104 players, and that list will continue to grow.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.