Last week we took a look at some of the more likely college candidates for Arizona's pick at 1-1 in the upcoming draft on June 8th. This week we examine the potential prep players. Brendan Rodgers will be covered in his own, separate installment of this primer.
The Prep Prospects
- DOB: 16 August 1996 (18)
- 6' 4" / 225 lbs
- Catcher, RHB
- Kennesaw Mountain HS (GA)
- Commitment: Georgia Tech
- Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
Profile: Stephenson moved into the 1-1 conversation after Dave Stewart made a special trip out to go see and spend time with the high school catcher. Stephenson is a beast of a player for the high school ranks. He hits for big power to all fields and has a strong, accurate arm. There are risks here though. First of all, he is a high school catcher. Plain and simple, betting on high school catchers is always taking the long odds if the expectation is for them to stay behind the plate. That brings us to the next concern. Stephenson is already a very big young man. He is actually going to still fill out yet some more though, bringing real concerns that his size might force him to move out from behind the plate.
Stephenson also raised some eyebrows previously by throwing a low-90s fastball along with an above average slider.
Pros: Although Stephenson is considered the second-best backstop in this draft class, he has much better defensive skills, giving him a better chance to stick there long term. His power will play, and his arm already borders on something special. If Stephenson can stick behind the plate, he could be a long-term solution to a team with catching needs. If he is unable to stick behind the plate, his arm and his power give him multiple other options to progress through the minor leagues.
Cons: Stephenson's value is at its highest if he sticks as a catcher. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked heavily against him, as his size is likely to eventually force him out from behind the plate. There is also some concern as to whether or not Stephenson will be able to tap into his power enough to make an impact, as his ability to make regular contact has come into question. Like many hitters his size, despite having great arm speed, his swing can get long, providing a fairly decent hole for pitchers to exploit.
The Take: While it is unlikely that Stephenson would be difficult to lure away from Georgia Tech, there just seems to be very little incentive to take Stephenson at 1-1. If the Diamondbacks were picking tenth or later, he would be a strong pick, but as it is, he is a huge gamble at 1-1. Stephenson's only real selling point over the other candidates is the meager bonus he would be in line for, leaving the Diamondbacks with an excess of $5 million to spread around later. He does, however; already possess some swagger and an epic bat-flip that was shown off earlier this season.
Back story: After leading off the game with a mammoth home run that demonstrated his 60 grade power, Stephenson was given the Barry treatment, seeing himself tally three intentional walks in his next three plate appearances. Finally, when he came up for the fifth time in the game, the opposition chose to pitch to him again. He decided to return the honor of providing the Barry treatment.
And here is the scouting video:
- DOB: 13 March 1997 (18)
- 6' 1" / 195 lbs
- CF, RHB
- Niskayuna HS (NY)
- Commitment: Wake Forest
- Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55
Profile: Like Stephenson, Whitley made his way into this conversation after Dave Stewart decided to go have a look and spend some time with the young man. Whitley is an all-around above average to great player. He hits for power and average while possessing plus speed and a fantastic arm. He has a powerful, quick strike and gets out of the box very quickly. Whitley has all the tools necessary to remain in center field as he moves up through the ranks.
Pros: Like Stephenson, one of the appeals of taking Whitley is the deep discount he will come in at. While Whitley has been drawing recent comparisons to Mike Trout, which is almost certainly pushing things. Still, clocked at a blinding 3.8 seconds from home to first, Whitley is putting up speed numbers that rival quick left-handed batter's times to first.
Cons: Whitley could eventually blossom into a top five talent, or he could just as easily be A.J. Pollock version 2.0. With his stand-out tool not being his bat or his glove, it is harder to project how he develops going forward. While the ceiling is there, Whitley is still raw and will need a lot of work to reach his potential.
The Take: If the Diamondbacks want to take an impact bat from the prep ranks that plays a skill position, there is a much safer bet with an even higher upside in Brendan Rodgers. The payoff for taking Whitley over Rodgers in order to save some signing bonus cash just isn't there.
- DOB: 15 January 1997 (18)
- 6' 1" / 190 lbs
- OF, RHB
- Eagle's Landing Christian Academy (GA)
- Commitment: Florida State
- Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 50 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
Profile: The son of former major league outfielder, Mike Cameron, Daz Cameron has been up and down the prospect power rankings. At this time last year, it looked like Cameron was on his way to becoming a strong 1-1 candidate. But, over the course of the year, Cameron has done very little to increase his stock, allowing others to pass him by. Now, as June 8th approaches, Cameron has two things going for him. He has stayed healthy, and while he did little to help his stock, he has done little to hurt it either. As a result, Cameron is a solid candidate to go in the first half of the first round.
Pros: Unlike Whitley, Cameron's premiere tool is his bat. Cameron hits for average with a fluid line drive swing. With great instincts in the outfield and at least an average (if not better) arm, Cameron possess the skills necessary to stick in center field.
Cons: There is some concern to be had that Cameron has not progressed much in the last year. At age 18, Cameron should be filling out some and starting to develop those next level tools. Instead, Cameron is showing some worrying signs of plateauing early, meaning the way he is currently grading out represents a ceiling rather than a floor.
The Take: If the Diamondbacks select Cameron 1-1, expect to hear all about his being the son of Mike Cameron for the next 4-5 years at least. The hype machine will be going into overdrive. There is plenty to like about Cameron, but once again, he is not the best prep talent available. Cameron currently profiles no better than Dansby Swanson does, yet he has a much longer path to the majors during which something could go wrong.
- DOB: 13 august 1997 (17)
- 6' 0" 170 lbs
- San Clemente HS (CA)
- Commitment: UCLA
- Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60 | Overall: 55
Profile: Kolby Allard is the best left-handed pitcher in the draft class not named Brady Aiken. Like nearly every other premium pitcher in this draft however, Allard was subject to injury and was unable to pitch during the latest season, suffering from a stress reaction in his back. Allard possesses a fastball that sits 92-94, though he can reach back and get 96 when he needs to and still spot the pitch. His slider is already a plus pitch and considered possibly the best of this class, possessing great late downward movement, inducing plenty of swing and miss. While the change-up is still a work in progress, the arm movement is there and the pitch projects out to be at least average. When combined with his excellent control it is already a somewhat capable out pitch. Allard's delivery is a smooth, easy, coming from a three-quarters arm slot. There is some cross-body movement that tends to creep in as he gets deeper into his game. Conditioning and working on his drive should correct this.
Pros: Allard possesses the tools necessary to move quickly through development. There is little doubt he will be able to stick as a starter, and pitching from the left side, that's a nice position to be in. Allard's flaws are easily correctable ones. His floor is a rather high one, and he has a strong pitching IQ, helping him to miss a lot of bats.
Cons: Allard is yet another pitcher coming off of injury. Also, unlike the other prep prospects, even with his injury, Allard looked like a top-10 prospect. Allard represents one of the few players that could conceivably command more than Rodgers in order to sign. If Allard is willing to gamble on his health and ability (and there is little reason to think he shouldn't), Allard could spend some time pitching for UCLA in order to make himself into a top prospect with strong 1-1 potential. Lastly, while Allard's floor is high, his ceiling remains something around a strong #3 pitcher, though some think he could even be a solid #2 if he can get everything working right.
The Take: I'm not worried about Allard's injury. Word is that he's getting in some work again already, and would easily be ready for getting a few innings playing in the Pioneer League. While there is plenty to like about Allard, his ceiling just does not scream 1-1 for me. Given that Allard could actually cost more to sign than Fulmer or Tate, who both project with as much ceiling if not more, I find myself passing on Allard as a choice for the 1-1 pick.
Summary: While there is indeed some intriguing talent in the prep ranks, only two players (Rodgers and Allard) show true stand-out talent at this point in their development. The rest all profile much more as mid-to-late first round talents. With two exceptions (Rodgers and Allard), these players all represent the Diamondbacks pursuing a strategy of drafting well-below anything close to slot value for 1-1. The sort of money saved on these picks would leave the Diamondbacks with enough cash to offer a lower pick first round type money. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, this draft is so shallow at the top, it is difficult to see the team being in a position to make use of that leverage late, as most of those later round picks that could possibly be a first rounder in two or three ears will be gone. The reality is, all of the picks after 3-1 will be unlikely to need the sort of bonus signing these prep players would allow. Unless the Diamondbacks are taking Brendan Rodgers at 1-1, they should be avoiding the prep ranks all together in this year's first round.