MLB Draft 2011: Checking in on the Top 50: Who's Rising, Who's Falling?
A little less than five months ago, I posted a list of the top 50 available prospects for the 2011 MLB Draft. In case you missed it, you can find it here.
In it, I detailed the draft standing, a mini scouting report and the future prospects of a fairly large pool of talented high-schoolers and collegians, including potential No. 1 overall pick Anthony Rendon as well as top-10 candidates Bubba Starling, Daniel Norris, Taylor Jungmann, Danny Hultzen and Sonny Gray.
Since it's been five months, I though it would be a good time to look back on that top 50 and see how the players on the list are performing: Who's doing well, who's doing terribly and who's dropped off the face of most team's draft boards?
The college season is close to halfway through, and the high school season is just starting to heat up, so we have a much better picture of how each prospect is looking as well as gauging the improvement from November, when the first list was published.
In order to get a better, more recent update, I'm going to profile the top 50 in segments of 25, then hopefully recycle them and give more detailed updates of them all as the season wears on.
Enjoy the update.
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice
2011 stats: .340, 30 runs, eight 2B, two 3B, three HR, 15 RBI, 36 BB, 14 K, 6-for-7 SB .952 F percentage
Rendon came into the season as the projected number one overall pick, and despite his sub-par performance, he still looks like the most worthy candidate.
His lack of power (only three HR) is concerning, but considering he rushed back from ankle surgery to be ready for his final season at Rice, it's not surprising. Also, you have to give some credit to the new bats college baseball introduced for the 2011 season. They've sapped power across the board for teams.
Rendon hasn't played too much third-base this season either, with coach Wayne Graham wanting him to ease his way back into the position after surgery. He's only made 20 total plays at third so far and has one error, good for a .952 fielding percentage.
He has showed pretty good speed (incredible for a guy coming off two ankle surgeries), rapping two triples and stealing six bases in seven attempts.
Rendon is feeling some heat for the top spot as pitchers like Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen and Taylor Jungmann throw up zeros at an alarming rate, but he's still an undeniable top-three talent.
Matt Purke, LHP, TCU
2011 stats: 3-1, 1.17 ERA, 23.0 IP, 29 K, seven BB, .186 avg against
While Purke's stat line looks solid, it doesn't begin to tell the story of his 2011 season so far.
The lanky left-hander missed a few starts early in the season due to a blister on his pitching hand, and the few opportunities he's had to start have seen him on a pitch or inning restriction.
He saw his spotless career record (18-0) shattered in a erratic performance (3.2 IP, three H, four R, four K, three BB) against underdog Houston Baptist. The victory was Houston's first of the season and improved their season win-loss total to 1-14.
During his most recent start, he was hit pretty hard too. Against 12-12 Houston, Purke gave up five runs (two earned) and four hits in four innings. He needed 74 pitches and hit two batters.
While his velocity has been fine, his uneven performances have led some to question whether or not he may be suited better for a bullpen role.
Purke can still salvage a spot in the top 10 or 15, but he's going to have to look a lot better than he has recently.
Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
2011 stats: 2-2, 2.31 ERA, 39.0 IP, 47 K, eight BB, .173 avg against
Cole has done nothing to diminish his position as the top arm available in the 2011 draft, regardless of class.
In fact, Cole has performed so well that many believe he has jumped over Rendon and is now the top overall talent. And considering the Pirates, last year, preferred the top pitcher (Taillon) to the top hitter (Harper), Cole could very easily end up as the number one overall pick.
This season hasn't been nearly as dominating for Cole or UCLA, but he's still put up huge numbers. He has 47 strikeouts in only 39 innings and has held hitters to a .173 average, second on the squad to Trevor Bauer's .132.
Cole has been slightly susceptible to the long-ball, surrendering three already after giving up only four all of last season. Still, his stuff is as good as ever. His mid-to-high 90s fastball has looked great, as has his breaking stuff.
Cole is the complete package and definitely worthy of a number one pick.
Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt
2011 stats: 5-1, 1.51 ERA, 41.2 IP, 58 K, 17 BB, .155 avg against, two complete games
Gray entered the 2011 season with as much helium as any draft-eligible pitcher.
He has sustained the momentum that made him Baseball America's Summer Player of the Year and has pushed the Commodores out to one of college baseball's best starts. And he's had a huge hand in their successful beginning, winning five of his first six starts and striking out more than 12 batters per nine innings.
Twice Gray has gone the distance, once in a losing effort, and he leads the Vandy pitching staff in just about every category.
Gray has cemented his status as a top-10 pick, and as the top pitcher on one of the top teams in the country, we'll likely get to see a lot of him as Vandy drives deep into the NCAA tournament.
Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
2011 stats: 5-0, 0.52 ERA, 51.2 IP, 42 K, five BB, .152 avg against, two complete games
No collegiate pitcher has been as dominating as Jungmann has during this first month and a half of the NCAA season.
He's been nearly un-hittable and has two complete-game shutouts to his name already. He's only made six starts, and he has yet to fail to reach the eighth-inning. He's pitched nearly 20 innings more than the Longhorns second-best starter, Cole Green, and he leads the team in every pitching category.
More impressive, Jungmann's stuff appears to be better than ever. His fastball has touched the high 90s this season and has sat very comfortably around 93-97 mph. He's done a magnificent job of sustaining his velocity deep into his starts, and his secondary stuff (slider, changeup) has been spot-on.
And as you can see, with only five walks in 51.2 innings, his control is as good as any pitcher in college baseball.
Jungmann, who appeared to be slipping out of the top-10 before the season began, has solidified his spot as a top six or seven pick. There's no way he slips out of the top-10.
George Springer, OF, UConn
2011 stats: .312, 13 runs, six 2B, two 3B, three HR, 22 RBI, 14 BB, 17 K, 8-for-12 SB
Springer has been one of the big losers so far in the 2011 draft season, failing to live up to enormous expectations that caused some to label him as a dark-horse to go number one overall this June.
After getting off to a terrible start, some of which could be due to the terrible Northern weather, Springer has rebounded, but hasn't displayed much of the 30-30 skill-set his name became synonymous with during last summer, fall and winter.
Springer does lead the Huskies in numerous offensive categories, but that really says more about an under-performing team (11-10) than it does about his prowess.
Springer steal features potential above-average power and great speed (eight steals in 22 games), but it just hasn't translated in his on-the-field performances as well as it did in 2010.
He should still be one of the top position players off the board in June, but he's slipping out of the top-five, no doubt.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Science Hill HS (TN)
2011 stats: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.2 IP, 15 K, three BB, .000 avg against
Norris entered the year as the top high-school pitcher available, and while others have jumped into the race for that title (Archie Bradley, Dylan Bundy, Taylor Guerrieri), Norris is holding his own.
His season just began on March 16th, and Norris was flawless during his first start, striking out 15 hitters in 6.2 innings in an 8-0 victory. He walked three batters and hit another, showing his characteristic control issues, but he failed to allow a hit. He threw exactly 100 pitches.
Apparently, Norris was firing on all cylinders. According to Tricities.com, his breaking stuff was as sharp as ever, and opposing hitters only made contact with five of his first 42 pitches. Four resulted in foul balls, and the other was a sac-bunt. His fastball was sitting 91-95 mph.
Information hasn't been made readily available on Norris' second start, but he's been pretty good with the bat, where he profiles as a first-to-second round pick.
Matt Barnes, RHP, UConn
2011 stats: 4-2, 0.99 ERA, 45.1 IP, 42 K, 11 BB, .155 avg against
Barnes is another player who had a stellar 2010 summer and is a guy who scouts were champing at the bit to get an extended look at this spring.
After a few rough starts, Barnes has bounced back and been one of the top starters in college baseball, winning four of his first six start and tossing two complete-game shutouts. His most recent shutout, a 7-0 victory over Pittsburgh, allowed Barnes' ERA to slip below 1.00. He struck out six and allowed only four hits.
In fact, Barnes has pitched 36.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, dating back to his last loss, a 3-1 heart-breaker against Indiana in which all three runs came off the bat of fellow 2011 projected first-round pick Alex Dickerson's three-run homer.
Barnes' stuff has looked slightly off from last summer, when he flashed four above-average pitches and excellent control. His fastball has still looked great, but the cold weather might have something to do with the lack of pinpoint control on his other pitches. Barnes got dramatically better as the weather heated up last year, and if he does the same in 2011, he could end up as a top-five pick.
He shouldn't command too huge of a bonus and could be a good choice for a team like Arizona, who has two top-10 picks, but only one of which is protected.
Henry Owens, LHP, Edison HS (CA)
2011 stats: 4-0, 0.48 ERA, 29.0 IP, 32 K, six BB
Owens entered the season as the No. 2 left-hander out of the high-school crop, and his performance so far in 2011 hasn't changed his position as a top-20 pick.
In four starts (five total appearance), Owens has been outstanding. He's gone seven innings in each start and already has a 16- and a 10-strikeout game to his credit.
He's only allowed one hit over his last two starts, and his 16-strikeout game came in a state tournament championship game. Owens is one of the primary reasons that his school, Edison High, is a top-five team in the country, according to Baseball America.
Owens doesn't have the high 90s velocity you expect from a pitcher his size (6'7"), but he makes do with a fastball that sits 90-95 mph. As he packs on more weight, he could possibly dial the pitch into the high 90s, but that's all projection right now. He spins an above-average curveball, and he also features a changeup.
Owens won't likely slip out of the top 20 picks and could be a nice fit for the Marlins, who place a premium on lefty high-school pitchers.
Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, South Carolina
2011 stats: .303, 25 runs, seven 2B, one 3B, six HR, 22 RBI, 16 BB, 15 K, 1-for-2 SB
Bradley has played a huge part in South Carolina's 18-5 start and No. 3 ranking in Baseball America's most recent poll.
He leads the team in homers and walks and is second in runs, doubles and runs batted in.
Bradley is arguably the most complete position player in college baseball this season. His combination of ability at the plate and defensive prowess makes his a sure-fire top-10 pick. And while he hasn't looked as sharp in center-field this season, he still profiles as an above-average defender, thanks to his amazing instincts in the field.
At the plate, he offers plus power and the ability to hit for a decent average. And on the base-paths, he projects to steal 15 to 20 bases per season.
Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso HS (OK)
2011 stats: 4-0, 0.60 ERA, 30.0 IP, 66 K, three BB
All you have to do is read Keith Law's glowing review of Bundy's most recent start to get a good idea of how quickly the Oklahoma right-hander is starting to rise.
In case you're not an Insider, Law put Bundy's start, in which he struck out 18 of the 21 batters he faced, up there with the best that he's seen from a high-schooler over the past four years. Better than Tyler Matzek, better than Jameson Taillon and on par with 2007 first-rounder Rick Porcello.
During that start, Bundy's fastball was sitting 92-96 mph and his secondary pitches, a curveball and changeup were incredibly tough to hit. His control of all three pitches was spectacular. He allowed only one hit, a bunt single, and the runner was cut down by the catcher.
For the season, Bundy has allowed only eight base hits and only two earned runs.
During the right-hander's most recent start, he struck out 14 batters in five innings, allowing only one hit and one walk. He struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced and actually struck out four batters in the fifth inning after a third strike was mishandled by the catcher.
Bundy is generating some serious helium that could result in a top-five draft selection.
Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner-Edgerton HS (KS)
2011 stats: None
Less than a month after leading his basketball team to the sub-state championship game, Bubba Starling is finally lacing up his cleats for baseball season.
And despite his status as a legit college prospect in basketball, and his scholarship to play QB at Nebraska, Starling is a projected top-five pick in June's baseball draft, and considering his brightest future could be ahead of him on the diamond, he'll likely forsake all other options and sign with an MLB team.
Baseball season in Kansas kicks off a little bit later than most of the rest of the nation, so Starling hasn't actually made his debut as of yet, but he'll definitely be one of the most followed players in the country, as scouts not only try to gauge his five-tool talent, but also his commitment to the sport.
Jack Armstrong Jr., RHP, Vanderbilt
2011 stats: 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, four K, four BB, .111 avg against
Armstrong began the 2010 baseball season with loads of draft momentum. He was fresh off of a dazzling performance in the Cape Cod League and primed for a season in Vanderbilt's weekend rotation.
One year later, he's still trying to find his place in the plans for the No. 1 team in the nation.
Due to an injury, Armstrong got a late jump on the 2011 season, and thanks to the Commodores insane depth, he has made only three appearances, and in those three innings, he's been all over the place. He has struck out four hitters, but he's also walked four and plunked another batter.
Vandy is trying to ease him back into their plans, but with the breakout performances of Grayson Garvin and Taylor Hill, it seems unlikely that Armstrong will win back a rotation spot, leaving him in the bullpen where many Major League teams might prefer him.
He might make more sense as a reliever due to his struggles with his command, as well as his repertoire that includes a high 90s fastball and a potential above-average curve, but a changeup that he's consistently struggled with.
Armstrong has likely slipped out of the first-round, but some team in the supplemental first might take a shot on him due to his velocity and athleticism.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Broken Arrow HS (OK)
2011 stats: 5-0, 32.1 IP, 56 K, four BB
One of the top athletes in the 2011 draft class, Archie Bradley has the world at his feet. Not only does he have a full-ride to play backup QB to Landry Jones at Oklahoma, but he is also a top 10 talent in this June's MLB Draft.
And so far, his performance this spring has him rising up the charts.
During his most recent start, Bradley was clocked 90-95 mph and struck out 10 batters in a 10-2 victory that improved Broken Arrow's record to 15-1. Bradley allowed only five hits, walked one and hit a batter, but needed only 83 pitches to get through seven innings.
And if not for the remarkable campaign that fellow Oklahoman Dylan Bundy is having, Bradley would be the toast of the state. Instead, he'll have to share the honors of best pitcher in the state, at least for now. Bundy's Owasso HS is ranked second in the state behind Bradley's squad.
Bradley's combination of his mid 90s fastball, his above-average curveball that could be the best of any high-schooler and his athleticism should make him a top 10 pick on draft day.
Then it will be up to the team that picks him to sway him away from his commitment to OU.
Travis Harrison, 3B/OF, Tustin HS (CA)
2011 stats: .600, 11 runs, six 2B, four HR, 13 RBI, six BB, one SB
Harrison has arguably the best power of any prep hitter in the 2011 draft class.
A Southern California commit, Harrison has already bashed four homers in 10 games for Tustin HS and has driven in 13 runs. He's also rapped six doubles and has put together one of the best campaigns of any hitter in his district.
And while some scouts (many actually) have expressed some concern over the stiffness in Harrison's swing, it hasn't affected his ability to rush high-school pitching. He might actually benefit from heading to college at a prestigious program like USC, but some team will inevitably take a chance, maybe in the supplemental first or second round on him due to his incredible raw power.
Another question mark for Harrison is his long-term position. He doesn't have great footwork at third, so he'll likely end up in the outfield.
Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia
2011 stats: 5-0, 1.12 ERA, 40.1 IP, 71 K, seven BB, .156 avg against
No pitcher has helped their cause more over the course of the 2011 season than Virginia's Danny Hultzen.
The left-hander has been un-hittable so far in 2011, utilizing his pinpoint accuracy of four great pitches to lead the Cavaliers to a 25-2 record and the No. 2 ranking in the country.
Hultzen, not necessarily a big strikeout pitcher, leads the nation with 71 Ks and has issued only seven walks all season. He's only given up 23 hits in 40.1 innings and surrendered only one homer.
More impressive than any stats, Hultzen's velocity has spiked a little this season, up from 88-91 to 91-94 mph, leading many to believe he might be worthy of a top 10 pick. He was previously considered as a late first-round talent, but the jump in his velocity, as well as his usual great command, could make him a potential top-three pick on draft day.
Christian Lopes, SS, Edison HS (CA)
2011 stats: .579, two runs, three 2B, one 3B, two HR, two RBI
Lopes has been another key piece of Edison High's top ranked squad.
As the team's starting shortstop, Lopes has been the table-setter near the top of the lineup and has flourished, hitting .579 with two homers. He has helped guide the team to a 9-1 start and a No. 3 national ranking in Baseball America's high-school team rankings.
Lopes ran into some tough luck during the team's most recent game, possibly suffering a concussion during an ugly collision in the sixth inning. The injury will most likely sideline him for a few games, while the team tries to figure out just how serious it is.
Lopes has all the skills to be a first-round pick. He has sure-hands at shortstop and is a very polished hitter. While he doesn't have the flash in the field of Francisco Lindor, or the raw power of Tyler Greene, Lopes could be the best all-around package SS available in June.
Scouts have compared him favorably to last year's No. 5 overall pick Christian Colon, but say that Lopes' ceiling is much higher.
Preston Tucker, 1B, Florida
2011 stats: .340, 14 runs, nine 2B, five HR, 21 RBI, 10 BB, 12 K, 1-for-1 SB
Tucker played a huge role in the Gators early season dominance, a run that saw them hold the top spot in Baseball America's rankings for the first month of the 2011 season.
UF has since dropped out of the top spot, but Tucker's play has yet to fall off. He's one of four Gators hitting .340 or above and is also one of four with at least 20 RBI. He ranks second on the team in hits and doubles and leads the squad in total bases.
Tucker is going to make his mark, both in college and as a pro, with his bat. While he is limited to one position (first-base) with his defensive liabilities, he is quite the opposite at the plate. A sweet-swinging lefty, Tucker offers potential above-average power as well as an uncanny ability to hit for average.
Tucker has first-round potential, but will probably find a home somewhere between the 25th and 60th picks on a team who is a big believer that they can make him a serviceable fielder.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde Academy (FL)
2011 stats: Not available
Lindor has gained as much helium as any high-school position prospect, rising from a second-to-third round talent to a potential top-five pick. Some scouts even feel he could go No. 1 overall if the Pirates are looking to save some dough.
Scouts aren't paying too much attention to Lindor's stats since he plays for such a terrible team, but rather are focusing on his tools and how he parlays them into real-time action.
He features a rocket arm and solid defensive tools, although he sometimes gets too flashy with the leather at shortstop. He's one of the few shortstop prospects who scouts feel can stick at short long-term, so you know he's going to be a high-pick for that reason alone.
Furthermore, Lindor is a switch-hitter with a chance for borderline above-average power. He won a home-run derby contest last summer, and while that was a good snap-shot of the kind of power he could have, it's not likely that he'll hit more than 15 as a pro.
Lindor hasn't done anything outrageous so far this year, like hit for the cycle or crush three homers in one game, but he has consistently wowed scouts and critics, such as ESPN.com's Jason Churchill and Keith Law, as well as all the experts over at Baseball America.
I don't see Lindor as a top-five guy but could see him fitting nicely in New York at pick 13.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky
2011 stats: 3-3, 3.05 ERA, 41.1 IP, 54 K, 21 BB, .214 avg against
Meyer entered the 2011 season looking to improve upon his less than stellar 2009 and 2010 seasons and trying to make a name for himself in this deep 2011 college draft crop.
And while Meyer, lovingly nicknamed "Bubba", has turned some heads, he hasn't made as much progress as scouts had hoped to see out of him.
He has posted an ERA more than two runs under his career average and has 54 strikeouts in only 41.1 innings, but his command over his pitches has been borderline abysmal. He's walked 21 batters, tossed five wild pitches and hit two batters.
At 6'9" and 230 pounds, Meyer understandably has trouble repeating his delivery but will undoubtedly get a look in the first-round due to his outstanding velocity (mid 90s) and a potential above-average slider.
To get into the top 20 picks, though, Meyer will have to reign in his erratic arm.
Kolten Wong, 2B, Hawaii
2011 stats: .357, 13 runs, four 2B, three HR, 15 RBI, 11 BB, 10 K, 9-for-12 SB
Wong emerged as one of the top hitters of the 2011 college crop last year, first with a breakout season in which he hit .357 with seven homers and 19 steals for the Warriors, and then in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .341 with 22 steals, earning league MVP honors.
This season, Wong was expected to anchor the lineup of a Hawaii team that would challenge for a spot in the NCAA tournament. And while Wong has performed well, the team has struggled to a 12-14 start.
Wong has been vital, hitting .357 with three homers and a team-leading 15 RBI. He also has a team-leading nine steals. Very few other hitters have been able to match his pace, which is why Hawaii is staring at the ugly start they are.
At his best, Wong is a top-of-the-order hitter who has a very exciting bat. He's not going to be a big power guy, but he should hit above .300 with regularity. He'll add to his game with slightly-above-average speed that could manifest in 20-30 steals per season.
He's going to struggle to put up numbers on this struggling team, which will make him slip, but all the tools are still there for him to be a first or second-round pick.
Zach Cone, OF, Georgia
2011 stats: .300, 14 runs, four 2B, one HR, 11 RBI, four BB, 20 K, 6-for-6 SB
Cone jumped onto the 2011 draft scene last year, when he had a breakout season for one of the worst teams in the SEC, hitting .363 with 10 homers, 53 RBI, 13 steals and a conference-best seven outfield assists.
This year, the Bulldogs are much better, having stolen victories from some of the top teams in the country (LSU, South Carolina, UCLA and FSU). Their record (11-14) doesn't look too much better than their 2010 mark, but everyone on the team knows this is a more talented squad.
And it all starts with Cone, who, despite immense struggles, still leads, or at least ranks near the top of, most offensive categories. He's a perfect six-for-six in steals and is second on the team in hits.
Unfortunately, the most glaring stat for Cone is his 4-to-20 BB-to-K ratio, which can be partly explained by him pressing to do too much dealing with the absence of some of the Bulldogs better hitters who have missed time with injuries.
Even with his strikeout concerns, Cone should go pretty high on draft day. He's a supplemental first-to-second round talent who does everything well but nothing well above-average.
Dillon Maples, RHP, Pinecrest HS (NC)
2011 stats: 3-0, 0.31 ERA, 22.0 IP, 51 K, 5 BB
Maples is another talented high-school fire-baller who is having a terrific season.
He was a recent profile of Baseball America, who posted a glowing subscriber-only review of his performance in his season debut. Maples displayed the same low-to-mid 90s heat that put him on the draft map last year and complimented his fastball with a above-average curveball and an improving changeup.
In his most recent start, Maples tied his own school-record with 18 strikeouts in 6.1 innings. He had a no-hitter broken up with one out in the seventh and was removed from the game after throwing 110 pitches.
Other recent developments for Maples, who is a UNC commit, include rumors that the football team plans to have him walk-on at kicker, provided he gives up a multi-million dollar bonus to attend Chapel Hill. Maples reportedly kicked a 53-yarder last fall and has the leg to hit from 60.
Maples has top-15 potential, but due to the outstanding depth in this year's class, he could wind up looking at a late-first-round selection.
Blake Swihart, C, Cleveland HS (NM)
2011 stats: Not available
Swihart is arguably the top high-school catcher available this June.
His blend of athleticism, ability behind the plate and hitting talent make him a likely first-round pick as well.
Yesterday, Swihart was named the MVP of the Sal Puentes Baseball Tournament after leading his team to the championship, going 5-for-8 with a homer and six RBI. Cleveland HS is the fourth-ranked team in their class in the state and is now 10-3.
Swihart is the most polished catcher in the high-school class and has the best chance to remain behind the plate thanks to his wiry frame.
At the plate, he's a switch hitter with some decent power. He projects to have slightly above-average power and could hit 20-25 homers per season as a pro.
Due to the premium placed on offensive-minded catchers who can remain at the position, Swihart shouldn't get out of the first-round without being selected.
Tyler Beede, RHP, Lawrence Academy (MA)
2011 stats: Not available
Beede is one of my top picks for the 2011 class, and I'm sure whichever team gets him will be getting a potential number two starter.
Beede was too good for the first high-school he attended, and in order to challenge himself and prepare for this year's draft, he transferred to a private school in Massachusetts. And while the step up in play has been more of a challenge, he's still thrived.
Beede features four pitches, each of which has at least average potential. His fastball sits in the low 90s, but he can dial it up to 94-96 mph. Beede has greatly benefited from the advice of his father, who pitched in the minor leagues after being drafted by the Cubs.
He also has a scholarship to Vandy, which means he could be one of the toughest signs of the draft and a more likely pick for the Yankees, Red Sox or Royals, teams more than willing to go over-slot to sign what they perceive to be first-round talent.