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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

June 8, 2010 at 9:31 AM

Second-day MLB draft running thread: M’s take high school SS Marcus Littlewood in second round, highly rated HS pitcher in 3rd

Here’s the M’s minor-league report for today.

You’ll note that I’m using Baseball America’s scouting reports extensively. I fully admit that I’m no amateur baseball expert, and they do an amazing job of following prospects from every corner of the country. Their assessments aren’t infallible, as I’m sure they’d be the first to admit, but I believe they are an extremely valuable tool in making quick assessments of the Mariners’ picks. In this internet age, there are more draft sites out there by the year, and some excellent ones. But I’ve got to admit, I’ve been a Baseball America adherent for more than 20 years, and I still value their work highly.

OK, I need to start pulling all this together into a story, so I’m going to end the live blogging now and let you follow along with next 10 rounds here, if you so desire. It’s been fun.

20th round: The Mariners took Matthew Bischoff, a RHP from Purdue. He gets a pretty good writeup from Baseball America: “Righthander Matt Bischoff went undrafted after a disappointing season in 2009, but he rebounded to become the best senior sign in the Big 10 Conference. The first player in Purdue history to earn all-conference honors in four different seasons, he does an excellent job of competing with average stuff. He can add and subtract from a lively fastball that parks at 88-90 mph and reaches 92, and he gets late action on an 83-85 mph slider/cutter. He also mixes in a changeup and curveball. His size (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) and age (23) work against him, but area scouts believe in him and he could sneak into the first 10 rounds.

19th round: The M’s went for a high school center fielder, Frankie Christian, a left-hander from Uplands HS in California.

18th round: The M’s take University of New Mexico RHP Willy Kesler. Writes Baseball America: “Some teams have written him off because he’s a short, pudgy righthander who has already had Tommy John surgery. But others like him as a late-round pick because he can reach back for a 92 mph fastball and is a good competitor on the mound. His secondary stuff is fringy and he profiles as a middle reliever, but he’ll get a shot.”

17th round: The Mariners take Danny Lopez, a shortstop from Pitt. Here’s the Baseball America report: “Lopez, a four-year starter at shortstop for the Panthers, put together his best season as a senior this spring, hitting .349/.437/.488 with 24 stolen bases. Lopez is a spray hitter with some bat speed who draws his share of walks, but his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame lacks strength. He’s a flashy defender at short who sometimes boots routine grounders, and his fringy arm strength could make him a better fit as a second baseman or utilityman in pro ball.”

16th round: Jordan Shipers, a LHP from S. Harrison HS in Bethany, Missouri. Shipers is considered the top high school pitcher from Missouri, though undersized at 5-10, 160. He’s committed to Missouri State and will be a tough sign, scouts say. His high school doesn’t field a baseball team, so he plays on weekends in a wood-bat league in Iowa.

15th round: Charles Kaalekahi, a RHP from Campbell HS in Hawaii.

14th round: Tyler Linehan, a LHP (6-feet, 240 pounds), from Sheldon HS in Sacramento, California. He’s committed to Fresno State and has a good overhand curve, scouts say.

OK, I’m back from lunch (Subway club, footlong, if you must know), and here’s what we missed:

13th round: LHP Jason Markovitz (6-3, 195) from Long Beach State. He pitched 25 games this year for the Dirt Bags, all in relief, and had a 2.93 ERA with one save. In 27 2/3 innings, he gave up 22 hits, struck out 34, and walked 15.

12th round: Stefan Romero, a third baseman (6-2, 215) from Oregon State. Says Baseball America: “Romero doesn’t have the athleticism to stay at third base, but he does have power and a good eye at the plate and was batting .326/.427/.603 this year with 13 home runs. Romero should be selected between the seventh and 10th round.”

11th round: Jon Keller, a RHP pitcher (6-5, 206) from Xavier High School in Iowa. He has committed to the University of Nebraska and throw up to 93 mph. Writes Baseball America: “He has a quick arm that also generates a hard curveball, but his secondary pitches and command aren’t consistent because he has trouble repeating his delivery at times.”

I’ve got us through 10 rounds. I’m going to take a quick lunch break, and I’ll catch us all up when I get back.

10th round: The M’s take RHP Tyler Burgoon out of the University of Michigan. He’s a smallish pitcher, contrary to the trend of this draft (5-10, 160), but is ranked the No. 2 prospect in the state of Michigan, and 158 overall (he was the No. 312 selection). Burgoon projects as a reliever who can advance quickly.

Writes Baseball America: “He has an exceedingly quick arm and a clean delivery, allowing him to maintain a 92-93 mph fastball with sink and armside run. He also has a wipeout slider that tops out at 85, and he throws both pitches for strikes. The 2009 Cape Cod League reliever of the year, he put on a show for scouts who came to watch Wolverines outfielder Ryan LaMarre in a series against Ohio State. Burgoon worked in all three games, sitting at 93 mph and touching 95 during a 3 2/3-inning stint in the middle contest and coming back with a 91 mph fastball and 80 mph slider on day three. Michigan tried Burgoon in its rotation earlier in the season before deciding he was more valuable in relief, and that will be his role in pro ball. He could go in the first five rounds to a team looking for a reliever who can advance quickly to the majors.”

Ninth round: The Mariners take their first local player, RHP Luke Taylor out of Woodinville High School, Matt Tuiasosopo’s alma mater. He’s another in a line of big kids picked by Seattle this year: 6-feet-6, 200.

Writes Baseball America: “Righthander Luke Taylor is interesting to scouts because he has such a fresh arm. A converted shortstop, he has been clocked mostly at 86-88 mph and has scraped 90. He has a 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame and the cleanest arm action in the Northwest. His curveball is soft and he’s still building arm strength, but he has a lot of projection because of his size, athleticism and arm action. A team could jump up to take him in the fifth-eighth round, but it’s more likely that he ends up at Hawaii.”

And I thought I had the cleanest arm action in the Northwest! This reporter has obviously never seen me type.

EIghth round: Another lyrical name: Jabari Blash. He’s a 6-foot-5, 218-pound right-fielder, a right-handed hitter, from South Miami Dade CC. The Rangers drafted him in the ninth round last year, but he didn’t sign. If baseball doesn’t work out for this year’s Mariner draft picks, they might have the makings of a good basketball or football team, with the size they’ve acquired.

Baseball America noted that Blash had a “disastrous” season this year at Miami Dade, and you’ll see why if you read til the end: “Blash, the Rangers’ unsigned ninth-rounder a year ago, turned down $250,000 to come back to Miami-Dade and was having a solid season, hitting .341. Despite his raw power, though, he had only one home run. Blash has a premium arm and runs well for his size. However, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Blash was kicked off the Miami-Dade team in April, and as a fourth-year sophomore with big but raw tools and little chance of continuing his college career, he won’t approach the money he turned down last year.

Seventh round: I have no idea how good a player this guy is, but I already love saying his name: Maguire Wiswall. That’s Maguire Wiswall of the Boston College Wiswalls, by the way. He’s a left-handed hitting first baseman, 5-11, 210.

Update, I just found out he goes by Mickey Wiswall., which has its own ring to it. Writes Baseball America: “Mickey Wiswall’s stock soared after his strong 2009 summer in the Cape Cod League, where he ranked as the No. 21 prospect. Major league scouting directors voted him onto Baseball America’s Preseason All-America second team, but he struggled out of the gate and scouts began to sour on him. The lefthanded-hitting Wiswall is at his best when he’s using the left-center-field gap as well as pulling the ball, but in the first half of the season he became too pull-happy, and he struggled to find his timing and rhythm. He made some adjustments midway through the season and was hitting .306/.394/.630 with 17 homers and 57 RBIs through 219 at-bats. The 6-foot, 212-pound Wiswall has a strong upper body that allows him to generate excellent bat speed, but he needs to incorporate his lower half into his swing more effectively. Some scouts say he flashes above-average raw power, but others believe he will hit for fringe-average power in pro ball, which calls his profile into question. Wiswall lacks first-step quickness and is a below-average defender at third base, where he played as a sophomore, but he’s an adequate defender at first. If Wiswall’s bat continues to develop, he can fill in at both corner infield spots and carve out an Eric Hinske kind of career in the big leagues. He projects as a seventh- to 10th-round pick.”

Sixth round: The M’s go for a high school catcher (Mililani HS) from Hawaii, Christian Carmichael. Apparently, he goes by the name “Keanu.” (I hope he’s a better catcher than Keanu Reeves is an actor). Carmichael is rated the top high school prospect from Hawaii, which churns out baseball players at a pretty good clip. Baseball America describes him as “an agile defender with quick feet and a strong, accurate arm. He has a line drive stroke, but defense is his calling card. He did not play this spring after switching from Kamehameha High to Mililani High in February because of transfer rules. Carmichael is committed to Hawaii, but a team that likes his defensive ability and has done its homework could draft him high enough to sign him away from that commitment.”

Fifth round: the M’s take a huge (6-4, 250) RHP from Tennessee Tech, Stephen Pryor. He was a transfer from Cleveland State who has struggled with his command and mechanics, though he throws hard — up to 98 mph. His rate of 16.5 strikeouts per nine innings was nearly an NCAA Division 1 record. The M’s are definitely targeting pitchers — power pitchers — so far in this draft after going for offense last year.

Writes Baseball America: “He made significant progress this season in taming his delivery, controlling his body and improving his velocity. He has tremendous arm strength and uses his tree-trunk legs well, leveraging his 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame, and he had his fastball sitting 94-97 mph all spring. In a May midweek matchup against Bryce Brentz and Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech coach Matt Bragga brought Pryor in even though the team was losing, showcasing him in front of several top evaluators on hand to see Brentz. Pryor gave up a solo home run but also pumped his fastball up to 98 mph and repeated his delivery. Pryor’s slider has its moments in the mid-80s, but he’s fairly new to the pitch after ditching his curve. It has decent shape and projects to be an average pitch if he can command it. He dominated at times, with 75 strikeouts in just 41 innings, an amazing 16.5 strikeouts per nine innings. That’s just short of the NCAA Division I record set by Ryan Wagner in 2003 (16.8), and Pryor should go high despite his 4-4, 5.71 overall mark at Tennessee Tech and despite getting hit around in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.”

Fourth round: A fascinating choice: LHP James Paxton. He was a supplemental round pick last year out of the University of Kentucky by Toronto (No. 37 overall), but didn’t sign. Instead of returning for his senior year, he had a dispute with the NCAA and joined the independent league Grand Prairie Air Hogs. Baseball America has him ranked as their No. 38 prospect, so this could be a huge steal at No. 132.

Here’s the Baseball America assesment on Paxton, with a good summary of his NCAA issues: “The Blue Jays drafted Paxton 37th overall out of the University of Kentucky a year ago, but they couldn’t sign the native Canadian. Team president Paul Beeston told a Toronto newspaper that he had negotiated directly with Paxton’s adviser, Scott Boras, which would be a violation of NCAA rules. The Wildcats wouldn’t allow Paxton to play until he submitted to an interview with the NCAA, and when he couldn’t secure a temporary injunction in the Kentucky courts, he left the team and signed with the independent Grand Prairie AirHogs of the American Association, following the paths of several prominent pitchers in recent years, including Tanner Scheppers.

“Last spring, he worked at 93-94 mph and touched 97 with his fastball, which features good run and sink. His curveball grades as a true plus pitch at times, and he’ll also show solid command and some feel for a changeup, though he doesn’t use it often. Despite his stuff and a gaudy 115-20 K-BB ratio as a junior, Paxton got hit hard to the tune of a 5.86 ERA last season. While his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame should lend itself to durability, he has a history of nagging injuries (sore elbow in high school, back issues in 2008, tendinitis in his left knee last spring) that worries some clubs. His stuff was down slightly as he tuned up for the start of the American Association season, but if he regains his 2009 form he could go higher than he did last year. Only Drew Pomeranz offers a better fastball/curve combo among this draft’s lefthanders.”

Third round: With the 99th overall pick, the M’s took RHP Ryne Stanek out of Blue Valley HS in Stilwell, Kansas. He is committed to the University of Arkansas. Baseball America has him ranked No. 42 overall, so this might be a coup if they can get him signed.

Here’s the scouting report on Stanek from BA: “When scouts saw Stanek’s 6-foot-4, 180 pound build and his ability to maintain a 90-92 mph fastball on the showcase circuit last summer, it was easy for them to project that he might throw in the mid-90s one day. That day came sooner than expected, as Stanek worked at 91-96 mph in his first game this spring. He has kept that velocity all spring, doing so with little effort. His delivery is fairly sound, though he does throw slightly across his body. His curveball is crisp and has two-plane break, giving him a second future plus pitch. He also throws a slider and changeup. Stanek is one of the cornerstones of a deep Arkansas recruiting class, but his step forward this spring means he’ll likely bypass college.”

Second round: The M’s have been linked to Utah high school shortstop Marcus Littlewood, but many thought it would be with their top pick, No. 43 overall. They used that instead yesterday for high school pitcher Taijuan Walker. However, lo and behold, Littlewood was still there when their second round pick came up this morning. The M’s just grabbed Littlewood with the No. 67 overall pick.

Here’s the blog post I did on Littlewood last week, which includes background and video.

And here’s Baseball America’s scouting assessment:

Littlewood was on the 2008 Team USA 16U squad, and his bases-clearing double brought home a gold medal in the Pan Am Youth Games against Mexico. Last year, he was named Utah’s high school player of the year. While he’s been on the prospect map for awhile, however, Littlewood draws mixed opinions on his ultimate value. Skeptics say he has no standout tools: He’s not rangy enough to stay at shortstop and won’t hit enough to play third. Those that like him see him as a player whose sum is greater than his parts. Littlewood is a slow-twitch athlete, which shows up in his swing and his speed. He is currently a below-average runner. He lacks the range to stay at shortstop, though his hands are soft and his arm is at least average. He is a natural righthanded hitter and took up switch-hitting as a freshman in high school. He profiles as a .270 hitter and, even after outslugging Kris Bryant at a spring workout for the Blue Jays by hitting 15 home runs in a row, he’ll likely hit no more than 12-15 homers a season as a pro. Littlewood’s father Mike was drafted as a third baseman out of Brigham Young by the Brewers in 1988 and is now the head coach for Dixie State in Utah. Having grown up around the game, he has great baseball instincts, works hard and plays the game the right way. He’s probably a third-round talent, but a team that likes him may have to take him as high as the supplemental first round to buy him out of his commitment to San Diego.

Baseball America had him ranked as their No. 112 prospect.



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