Thinking of ways to preview the draft, I'm thinking that one of the things to do is to just make sure that everyone is familiar with the names we'll be talking about two weeks from today and understanding why some of us like or dislike some of those names. So I'm going to run through some of the players who we might see drafted with one of those five first rounders. First up, I'm going to look at maybe the top of the draft's leanest set of players:
College position players certainly do not abound early in the draft. Only seven are ranked in Baseball America's most recent top 50 prospects. If this were an NBA, NFL or NHL draft I wouldn't even waste the time looking at, say, Matt Wieters, since he would figure to go well before the Rangers. But since Scott Boras is a baseball agent and since MLB hasn't taken the steps that other sports have to make signing draftees less of an issue, guys like that have to be considered.
With that, here are eight college position players whose names you might want to know:
Matt Wieters, C, Georgia Tech
Wieters is generally regarded as the second best player in the draft, but because of his agent, Boras, people are projecting him lower. Jonathan Mayo yesterday projected him at #6, while Jim Callis, in his first round projection for BA, unfathomably slid him all the way past the Rangers to 18. Wieters is a switch hitter and a huge guy, 6-5, 230, and possesses a great arm. He's generally regarded as an asset defensively, and while he has consistently had a BA in the .350-.375 range and hit around 10-15 HR (though that's in 60-70 games), he's regarded as more of a polished power bat than a pure hitter. He does have promising BB/SO ratios throughout college, and his 307/.417/.535 performance in the Cape Cod Summer League should bode well. He's certainly thought of as someone who would quickly be major league ready, although so was Jeff Clement, and Clement is stuck hitting .218 in AAA two years after going third to Seattle. Jason Varitek is a name you tend to see him compared to.
Beau Mills, CIF, Lewis-Clark St.
Mills is primarily a bat, and a left-handed one. He has played some 3B, but doesn't appear likely to stay there permanently. His father is the Red Sox bench coach, so he does have more of a background in organized baseball than your typical NAIA player. His numbers are predictably insane, as he's stayed close to a .500 BA and is already over 30 HR with LCSC headed for the ten team NAIA WS this weekend. Mills looks like he's going to go high. BA ranked him 12th, but Callis projected him 4th. While some of the other mocks slot him lower, the fact that he and Wieters are the two premier college bats, combined with Wieter's situation, seems to guarantee him a spot in the top ten or so.
Julio Borbon, OF, Tennessee
Borbon scares me and figures to be right in the middle of Rangers 17th pick discussion. Callis projected him as their pick, and if you like the player, he would seem perfect, as a speedy (but weak armed) CF who could hit high in the order. Battling injuries, he's dropped about 30 points on his BA this season, down into Drew Meyer/John Mayberry Jr range, and almost as troubling, he doesn't walk that much, even in college. Another left handed bat, he has some pop but not HR power, and while he's fast, he hasn't stolen all that many bases in college, around 40 in the equivalent of a major league season. I just don't see it, and as some here have mentioned, he reminds a little too much of Meyer for me to even want to consider this. I will say, I haven't seen much of him, but his swing certainly isn't as bad as Drew's.
Corey Brown, OF and Matt Mangini, 3B, Oklahoma St
Mangini and Brown have seen their relative stocks cross this season, as Mangini would be seen before the Rangers (at 17) in most early and midseason mocks, and Brown wasn't really a consideration. Now, Mangini has dropped outside of the top 50 in BA's most recent rankings, and Brown is ranked within the first round. I'm guessing that Brown will be a popular name with Rangers fans, as he combines tools with a patient approach at the plate and good results (around .360 BA the last two years, lots of walks and 20 HR power). He hasn't played CF consistently at OSU but is regarded as someone who could stick there in the pros. He's also yet another left handed college bat, as is Mangini. Mangini has about two inches and a few pounds on Brown, and he's not the same caliber of athlete, nor has he produced the same kinds of results. He's been more of a .340's hitter, even when he was more highly ranked, and hasn't hit for the kind of power that Brown has. BA's profile on him says that he should be able to stick at 3B, but he doesn't sound like an asset there. The Cowboys are going to be contenders for the College World Series, so it would be interesting to watch one of these guys in that if they are picked by the Rangers.
Matt LaPorta, 1B, Florida
Adam's favorite draft prospect is having just a great season, hitting over .400, getting on base over 50% of the time, and showing expected power as a senior, after he somehow hit .259 as a Junior. It's hard to reconcile his last two seasons, even with his nagging injuries, which is why BA only ranks him 20th and was only projected by Callis last Friday as the 27th pick. I think I'd be ecstatic to get him at 24. With the kind of contact he's making and the kind of power he projects to, he could very well be an offensive difference maker. He's the only one of the eight guys I'm summarizing here who hits exclusively right-handed. He also throws righty and at kind of a stocky 6-1 doesn't offer much defensively. I think we could find a way to fit his bat in though.
Brad Suttle, 3B and Kyle Russell, OF, Texas
Suttle and Russell rank 34 and 35 among BA's top 100 and are both draft eligible Sophomores. Suttle has some profile similarities to Mangini in that he's a 3B who doesn't hit for really big power and isn't a terrific athlete. However he has had better performance than Mangini this season, as he raised his average like 60 points and pretty much upped his rates across the board, and he's also a switch hitter. Suttle doesn't blow you away in any facet, but he does look like a major league player. Yet another lefty college bat, Russell has had a pretty incredible season in his own right, breaking UT's HR record and currently sitting at 27. He's a good athlete and has more walks than Suttle while only hitting four points lower, but his strikeouts at the college level are alarming - 60 in 207 AB, and as BA mentions in his profile, his approach and swing are question marks. These guys are going to be interesting cases, since they can always go back for their junior seasons (and Senior seasons at that), and they're not slam dunk first rounders or anything. Texas, like Florida, is favored to make the CWS, so there could certainly be some TV time in front of them (though A&M did avenge UT's recent sweep today in the conference tourney).
Up next we'll look at some HS position players.