Monday, June 8, 2015

2015 Draft Prospects: Others to Consider

Tyler Stephenson
Kennesaw Mountain High School (GA.)
6-4, 210 lbs
B/T: R/R

Stephenson is a big kid. Despite his size, reports are positive on his defense and he should be able to stick behind the dish. He has a strong arm and good receiving skills. Even so, his height could be problematic, as few catchers this side of Matt Wieters are that tall.

At the plate, Stephenson has big raw power. His size and strength ensure that when he makes solid contact, the ball will go a long way. However, the question on Stephenson is whether he'll make enough consistent contact to reach that power. Looking at his swing, that seems like a legitimate concern.

Here's a look at him in action, courtesy of FanGraphs on YouTube:

As a taller player, Stephenson has longer arms. Longer levers like that can generate greater force to impart on the baseball, but they also create more length in the swing path. That added length is compounded by a deeper hand set in the load. The deeper load position and the longer arms forces the bat to travel a longer distance to reach the point of contact.

He has some interesting attributes, but in a draft where I would focus on impact bats, plus hit tools, and strong plate discipline, the risk in the hit tool means he's not really a top option for me with the 11th pick.

Daz(mon) Cameron
Eagles Landing Christian Academy
6-1; 190 lbs
B/T: R/R

Daz is the soon of Mike, so maybe we can draft him and then trade him for Trey Griffey, if Trey ever decides to play professional baseball. So, we'd have that going for us, which is nice. In comparison to his dad, Daz gets slightly higher marks for his instincts and feel for the game, slightly lower marks for his athleticism.

To some extent, Daz is suffering from prospect fatigue. He's been on the radar of the scouting community for a couple of years, which has given them time to pick him apart a bit. The heightened scrutiny may be a bit of overkill, but regardless he won't slip far.

There is a lot to like with Daz and his swing is the high level type you'd expect from the son of a former major leaguer. If there is any red flag it would be in his front side. My first impression is that cuts short his rotation, moving his upper body a bit forward, rather than locking in and letting the rotation work around his front side. That might explain some of the unrealized power potential, but it's also something that's likely correctable.

Daz is intriguing, but he is also rumored to be floating exorbitant bonus demands, so that has to be taken into account with the Reds pick, as they can't afford to miss.

Trenton Clark
Richland High School (TEX)
6-0; 200 lbs
B/T: L/L

Trenton Clark is projected to go right around the 10th pick. He's one of the most highly regarded high school hitters in the draft class. That said, I wouldn't draft him at 11th overall. Clark does something at the plate that I've never seen before. He grips the bat with his thumbs extended up the handle, like he's gripping a golf club. I'm all for challenging conventionally held wisdom and rejecting old scouting tropes, but this one is a bridge too far for me. The grip hasn't slowed him down at all, he still rakes, but I'm not sure how that will work against professional pitching. His swing has a slightly different look to it due to upper body compensations for the unusual grip. His swing looks a bit stiff, as there is minimal differential between the rotations of the hips and shoulders, instead they rotate all of a piece and it gives his swing an different look.

He's definitely interesting, but I'd let another team take on the risk of this unique grip. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. In this case, I'd let another organization prove up this concept and, if it works, we'll reconsider on the next hitter with a golf grip.

Ian Happ
University of Cincinnati 
6-0; 205 lbs
B/T: S/R

Ian Happ will be the highest drafted Bearcat by the end of the day. He'll even go higher than Kevin Youkilis, who was undervalued at draft time.

Happ has a lot of the qualities that I'd like to see the Reds prioritize. He's got a strong hit tool and he can control the strike zone.

For his collegiate career, Happ has put up a .338/.463/.552 slash line with 56 steals in 76 attempts, 25 homers, and a 116/128 K/BB ratio. He fits a similar offensive profile to Brendon Sanger, which, again, is something I like, but his higher power production will get him off the board in the first round. Like Sanger, Happ's power spiked in 2015 (SLG%: 2013: .483; 2014: .497; 2015: .672) with the introduction of livelier baseballs in the college game. As with Sanger, the question becomes how much of the power spike is from the new baseballs and how much is from legitimate power development.

Happ is a switch-hitter who is better from the left side, which was my impression from watching him hit. Given that the left side is the heavier side of the platoon split, that would work in his favor, but ideally he could handle of pitchers of either handedness.

Here's a look at Happ in action, courtesy of FanGraphs on YouTube:

Happ has a stockier build, so his swing is less fluid than some of the other top prospects. It's a bit more utilitarian, "it's for gettin' around, like a jeep!" And, it certainly produces results. His swing from the right side seems long to the point of contact and a bit more linear. He doesn't seem quite as rotational from the right side. From the left side, he's more fluid and feels a bit shorter to the ball, but also has more of an uppercut swing path with a higher finish.

On the defensive side, things are less clear. Happ has played all around the field. Earlier in his career, he played some second, third, and a bit of shortstop, but he played primarily centerfield and rightfield this year. His value will be driven by his likely defensive position. If he could transition back to the infield or hold down centerfield, then he could be a valuable piece. If he is relegated to leftfield because of clunky fielding actions on the infield and fringe arm strength in center and right, then he's not as valuable.

Still, this is a player with a strong hit tool and the ability to control the strike zone. I'd feel a touch more comfortable with selecting him 11th if he had more certainty in defensive position and was more clearly going to provide value with the glove. Even so, this is a draft where I'd like to see the Reds focus on hit tool and plate discipline, Happ certainly provides that.

Dakota Chalmers
North Forsyth High School (GA) 
6-3; 175 lbs
B/T: R/R

Chalmers is one of my favorite pitchers in the draft class. He features a four pitch mix, a fastball that sits low to mid 90s and touches 98, an above average curveball, an above average slider, and a developing changeup.

Chalmers has a loose arm, good height, and room for more physical projection as he continues to fill out. His command and control are average, or a tick below, right now, but his mechanics should allow for improvement. He has the mechanical foundation he needs, but might need to refine a few components to improve his command.

Here's a look at Chalmers in action, courtesy of Jheremy Brown on YouTube:

Chalmers' mechanics are very solid. He uses a nice high leg kick and coils up to create tension and torque. He fires his hips before his shoulders, allowing the kinetic chain to efficiently transfer force from the lower half to the upper half and the right arm. His arm is up into position at the proper time, eliminating the potential risk to the shoulder that comes from timing problems.

Dakota also maintains good balance throughout the delivery. His tempo is a bit on the quick side, there's a bit of effort to his delivery, and he finishes up spinning off to the first base side, but his deceleration phase effectively and safely dissipates the force, reducing stress on the arm. His arm pronates early and effectively and there's no recoil on his finish.

One of concerns of scouts is a "head whack" in his delivery. Personally, I don't see much of that and what is there will likely be ironed out as he matures physically and doesn't have to use quite as much effort to generate force.

Chalmers is one of my favorite righthanders in the draft class. He'd likely be an overdraft at the 11th pick and probably doesn't slide far enough for the Reds to get a shot at him in round 2, but we can dream.

I like Chalmers a lot, so he's on my watch list.

Kyle Tucker
Plant High School (FLA.)
6-4, 175 lbs
B/T: L/R

Brother of current Astros' outfielder Preston Tucker, Kyle is viewed as the better of the two and as one of the top bats in the 2015 draft. Kyle has a unique set of swing mechanics, it's somewhat old school and has been compared to Stan Musial and Ted Williams. Obviously, that's high praise, but the comparison is more about the mechanics and less about the expected future performance level.

Even so, Tucker's offensive upside is considerable. His makeup and feel for the game are strong. He has good present power despite not having filled out much physically. Tucker has good athleticism, but will likely move to rightfield, where his arm profiles just fine, when he fills out.

Here's a look at Kyle Tucker in action, courtesy of Baseball Factory on YouTube:

He does have a different swing. He keeps his hands a bit farther from his body, doesn't generate a ton of bat lag, and isn't quite as reliant on body rotation to power the swing. His is more driven by the arms and hands, but he makes it work very well. There are a lot of different ways to get the job done, but the most important thing is that it gets done.

His swing is long, fluid, uncomplicated, and powerful. In fact, it always surprises me when this type of swing generates such good power, but there are hitters who excel with it. Tucker's swing coupled with a good feel for hitting allows him to make consistent hard contact, getting the barrel of the bat on the ball.

Tucker has a pure hit tool and will likely be off the board by the time the Reds select. Still, his broad base of tools and skills, including a plus hit tool, land him on my draft board.

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