2012 MLB Draft: 10 Under-the-Radar Prospects Who Could Be MLB Stars
Compared to the absolutely loaded 2011 draft class that featured at least three potential aces—Dylan Bundy, Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley—selected within the first 10 picks, the 2012 class is comprised of high-ceiling, high-risk players that are anything but guaranteed to be stars in the Major Leagues.
And given the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that I discussed yesterday, teams will be forced to be creative with their selections and attempt to find value where others may not.
Having said that, I have put together a list and scouting reports on 10 draft-eligible players who may not be the most touted prospects into the draft, but I believe have the potential to one day be impact players in the Major Leagues.
Lead image courtesy of 1340thefan.com.
Pierce Johnson, RHP, Missouri State
College: Missouri State
2012 Stats: 11 GS, 75.2 IP, 2.85 ERA, 2.18 FIP, 94/25 K/BB, .244 BAA
Overview: Johnson hasn’t received the hype as the other right-handers cut from the same mold and continues be a big-time sleeper headed into the draft. His arsenal consists of an easy 91-96 mph fastball, a filthy slider that could already be considered a plus offering, and an above-average change. He has simple mechanics and fluid arm action that profile well at the next level. His stats have never "wowed" anyone, but his ceiling is high.
The only drawback with Johnson is his health, as he's overcome some type of injury every year. However, none of the injuries—many of which were the result of bad luck—involved his elbow or shoulder, so teams shouldn't be overly concerned. Yet, they could cause him to slide out of the first round, where he will become a steal in the supplemental or even second round.
Nick Travieso, RHP, Archbishop McCarthy HS (Fla.)
High School: Archbishop McCarthy HS (Fla.)
College Commitment: Miami
Overview: As a freshman in high school, Travieso was already touching the low-90s. These days, the right-hander sits in the 94-96 mph range and has been known to reach back for 98-99. Like most fireballers, he also throws a sharp, mid-80s slider that’s intended to generate swing-and-misses rather than hit spots. He also features a changeup, however it is currently more of a show-me pitch intended to setup the fastball-slider combo.
A presence on the mound, Travieso uses his strong lower half and quick arm to generate exceptional torque, which in turn adds an element of deception to all his pitches. Despite the quick arm and high velocity, he has no track record of injuries and has a strong, durable frame.
His high school program has been continually loaded with top-notch pitching, so the right-hander has been used only sparingly throughout his prep career. Therefore, his pure velocity and lack of mileage should make him an intriguing draft pick for some teams, and could lead to a higher than anticipated selection.
And if he’s regarded as a potential starting pitcher, he could even work his way into the back-end of the first round or early supplemental round.
Tyler Gonzales, RHP, James Madison HS (Texas)
High School: James Madison (Texas)
College Commitment: Texas
Overview: Gonzales possesses one of the more impressive prep arms in the 2012 draft class, but hasn’t received the first-round consideration like Lance McCullers, Jr., Lucas Giolito or Zach Eflin.
The right-hander’s fastball sits in the 93-95 mph range, though he’ll frequently reach 97 mph in a given outing. Perhaps what’s even more impressive is the fact that he has demonstrated the ability to maintain low-to-mid-90s velocity deep into games. Gonzales also features one of the best sliders in the class, which explodes out of his hand at 84-88 mph and generates both late and sharp bite. According to one scout, Gonzales does have a changeup, but simply has no need for it at the prep level.
Although he lacks a power pitcher’s frame, Gonzales has a quick, whippy arm and a delivery that caters to his arm action. However, it’s uncertain whether he is being viewed as a future starter or reliever—his two-plus pitches project in both scenarios, though he’d have to develop his changeup (and possibly a fourth pitch) to be a successful starter.
If a team profiles Gonzales as a future big-league starter, he could work his way into the supplemental first round or early second round.
Reid Scoggins, RHP, Howard (Texas) Junior College
College: Howard (Texas) JC
Future Commitment: Florida International
Overview: Few pitchers have gained as much momentum over the last two months that Scoggins, whose fastball has reportedly been flirting with triple digits as of late. He’s ironed out some issues with is mechanics and the results have been spectacular, as he’s sat 95-98 mph in recent weeks with lots of late action and accuracy.
What a team will ultimately draft in Scoggins is pure arm strength—and what team doesn’t love that? His breaking ball is only average at best but plays up due to both the look and speed differential in relation to his heater. He has a changeup as well, but rarely has the need to use it. However, that’s not to say it won’t be a crucial pitch for him at the next level.
Scoggins underwent Tommy John surgery in the fall of the 2010, so he’s still regaining a feel for his pitches and mechanics to an extent. So the fact that he’s pumping it in the mid-to-upper-90s with ease while showing continually improving command should give many organizations something to dream on.
Dylan Baker, RHP, Western Nevada CC
College: Western Nevada CC
Overview: Arguably the top junior college draft prospect, Baker, an Alaska native, continues to post video game-like numbers and vault up the draft boards. While he offers the same type of upside as the big-three of the 2012 class (Kevin Gausman, Mark Appel and Kyle Zimmer) However, Baker has repeatedly flown under the radar due to his lack of previous success.
This season, the right-hander has shown vast improvement in all his pitches and has seen a major velocity spike that has his plus fastball up to 93-97 mph. Baker also has two different breaking balls, both with plus potential. His mid-to-upper-80s wipeout slider is a swing-and-miss offering, and his curveball is more of the downer variety.
Although his fastball-breaking ball pairing could make him a first-round draft pick as a relief pitcher, there are many scouts who still believe that can be a starting pitcher.
If he’s drafted as a starting pitcher, Baker has the potential to sneak his way into the tail-end of the first round. Either way, he has enormous upside given his current size, work ethic and arsenal of pitches.
Barrett Barnes, OF, Texas Tech
College: Texas Tech
2012 Stats: 194 AB, .325/.422/.577, 28 XBH, 19 SB, 36 K/32 BB (52 G)
Overview: A right-handed hitter, Barnes has quick wrists that produce considerable bat speed, and in turn, plus raw power. His batting average in college is a result of his advanced plate discipline and ability to drive the ball. However, he is almost exclusively a pull hitter and will have to learn how to use the whole field—at least to an extent.
Beyond his power, Barnes’ most appealing tool is his plus speed, which has led to improved range in center field and plays up on the base paths. Given that his arm is only slightly above average at best, he will be most valuable by remaining in center field. He’s still very raw overall, but his power-speed combination—as well as his potential to stick in center—could boost his draft stock over the upcoming weeks.
Mason Melotakis, LHP, Northwestern State
College: Northwestern State
2012 Stats: 55.7 IP, 3.72 ERA, 3.53 FIP, .213 BAA, 63 K/15 BB (22 G; 3 GS)
Overview: Much like Gonzales and Baker, Melotakis is a power pitcher with a plus fastball that sits 94-97 mph and is located to both sides of the plate. His secondary offerings lag behind in the form of a spike breaking ball and solid-average changeup. However, he’s worked exceptionally hard this season on improving both pitches, as it lends to his projection as a starting pitcher.
The southpaw’s mechanics are fluid and repeatable, as he’s already demonstrated the ability to attack opposing hitters out of the bullpen with his plus fastball. However, will a big-league bullpen be Melotakis’s final destination?
Given his handedness, frame and plus heater—not to mention the fact that Melotakis does have some experience as a starter over the last two and a half seasons—I truly believe there will be an organization that will want to develop him as a starter. A left-hander with that type of fastball is a premium in the Major Leagues, and if things don’t pan out, a late-inning bullpen role is still a nice backup plan.
Patrick Wisdom, 3B, St. Mary's (Calif.)
College: St. Mary’s (CA)
2012 Stats: 177 AB, .254/.380/.435, 19 XBH, 41 K/34 BB (49 G)
Overview: As you may have inferred from his stats, Wisdom is having a disappointing season at the plate. However, the third baseman still has projectable plus power as well as above-average plate discipline. He’s a solid defender at third base with a good glove, although his plus arm stands out as his best tool.
The combination of his above-average defense and plus power make him a highly intriguing prospect, and he's a potential steal for any organization in the second round considering the lack of projectable college bats.
Alex Yarbrough, 2B, Mississippi
2012 Stats: 205 AB, .405/.458/.546, 21 XBH, 20 K/18 BB (51 G)
Overview: A switch-hitter, Yarbrough has a balanced setup and swing for both sides of the plate that plays up due to his impressive plate discipline. Although he played shortstop for most of his prep and early college career, his range is a much better fit at second base, where his instincts and high baseball IQ allow his tools to play up.
Possessing one of the more consistent hit tools in the 2012 draft class, I view Yarbrough as a Kolten Wong-type: he isn’t a spectacular ballplayer but does everything pretty well, with his biggest asset being his bat. And much like Wong, Yarbrough could reach the Major Leagues in a relatively short amount of time.
Adam Brett Walker, 1B, Jacksonville
2012 Stats: 198 AB, .333/.419/.566, 24 XBH, 17 SB, 45 K/28 BB (53 G)
Overview: Walker is one of the top power hitters in this year’s draft, and possesses the raw strength to jump the yard to all fields. His swing has a hitch in it, and at times can get too long and drag through the zone. However, as one looks for in an elite college bat, Walker has the plate discipline that makes his power especially projectable—especially in a weaker draft class.
Given his size and average athleticism, he’ll likely be a first-base-only prospect. At the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if his future organization gives him trial run in the outfield.