In the weeks leading up to the annual MLB draft I want to make sure I’m not just hoarding information gathered through countless conversations with scouts, coaches, players and front office folks. I want to make sure I’m pushing things out there to inform the baseball public and make this time of year as exciting as possible. My intent is not to start or perpetuate rumors around players or teams, though there may be notes about things I’m hearing in the draft world.
This first edition of Draft Notes will focus in on a couple of raw athletes, a pitcher that won’t be eligible to be drafted, and a couple of guys to keep an eye on as the draft approaches.
Athleticism to Spare
Outfielder Jamie Jarmon from Indian River High School (DE) has been a divisive player among scouts this spring. Several scouts I have spoken with dubbed him one of the best athletes on the east coast this spring, while others felt he looked good in a uniform but the athleticism didn’t always show on the field.
“He looks really good in his uniform,” said a veteran area scout. “He looks great coming off the bus, but he’s not a superstar athlete for me.”
Committed to South Carolina, Jarmon could be a difficult player to sign given the new restrictions in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Because of the difference of opinion over just how much of an impact athlete he is, Jarmon falls short of earning first round grades with his raw tools and fits more in the fourth to sixth round range. That could mean teams would have to go over-slot with their signing bonus to pull him away from his commitment to USC.
Given the questions surrounding Jarmon’s raw hitting ability and general feel for the game, teams could shy away from going hard after him and he could end up playing in the SEC next year. If a team that believes in his impact athleticism has an indication that they can get the deal done for around MLB’s recommended slot, then he could go in the upper end of that fourth to sixth round range and be playing games in the complex leagues by mid-July.
Moving inland a bit, the University of Kentucky offers a premium athlete of their own in outfielder Brian Adams. Adams has hardly played for the Wildcats this spring, collecting only 33 at-bats along the way. Much of Adams’ time on campus has been spent playing wide receiver on the Kentucky football team, but he has told his coaches and MLB clubs that he intends to go play baseball if (more likely when) drafted.
Adams checks in at a very physical 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds with outstanding athleticism. Because he has not been on the field much this spring, Adams worked with his coaches at UK to hold a workout for MLB scouts earlier this month. Several reports from the workout indicate he flashed the potential for plus power, easy plus speed and an average arm.
As an under the radar player with little fanfare, Adams may not be popped as high as his raw athleticism may suggest, but there is little doubt he will get picked. At this point the most critical piece for him is consistent at-bats and advanced instruction, something pro ball will certainly provide.
Kirby Goes to School
As has been widely reported over the last week, James River High School lefty Nathan Kirby’s name will not be in the mix for the draft this year. After months of telling teams he had no intention of signing, Kirby went an extra step and refused to participate in MLB’s medical and drug screening programs that are required of all potential top draft picks.
Kirby had been refusing in-home visits from scouts and other MLB team officials and there were rumors swirling of bonus demands in excess of mid-first round money.
Though many scouts consider Kirby one of the better left-handed pitchers in this year’s high school class, he doesn’t match up with the overall potential of guys like Max Fried and Matt Smoral. “He’s not a premium athlete and it’s not as free and easy as it was last year,” said an AL scout. “You have to know you’re getting a high school reliever right out of the gate.”
Kirby may ultimately get his multi-million dollar bonus if he can head off to the University of Virginia and improve his draft stock. With a fastball that sits at 88-91 mph and a potential plus-plus hammer curveball, he has the building blocks to be an outstanding college pitcher and could be in consideration of the upper half of the first round in three years.
No matter the relative strength or weakness of the draft class, there are always several players that come out of the woodwork with serious helium in the weeks before the draft, vaulting themselves into first round consideration.
Mississippi State right-handed pitcher Chris Stratton has parlayed some brilliant performances this spring into an elevated draft stock, with rumblings that some teams consider him on par with right-handers Marcus Stroman (Duke) and Michael Wacha (Texas A&M) in the second tier of college pitchers.
Stratton has a durable body (6-2, 205) that has good strength and presence on the mound. His fastball sits a tick above average and can reach higher when he looks for me. His slider is a second above-average to plus pitch and his change-up has made strides this year, giving him a quality three-pitch mix that should allow him to be a starter long term.
Teams interested in sticking to slot in the first round or even going a tick below slot may be aggressive in popping Stratton early in the first round next month.
It’s been a down year in general for Vanderbilt’s baseball program, particularly after some star-studded teams in recent years that had little trouble pushing their way to Omaha for the College World Series.
With that down season come reduced expectations for draft-eligible players on their roster. Those reduced expectations have been changing for one member of their pitching staff as left-hander Sam Selman has been steadily rising in recent weeks and could be reaching into the top three rounds of the draft.
By flashing a fastball as high as the mid-90s with an improved arm action and better overall delivery, Selman is starting to look like a potential power arm from the left side. Teams won’t be picking Selman with the hope that he moves quickly through the system, as both his slider and change-up need work, but teams will be hard pressed to ignore the raw potential this southpaw has.