Scouts have mentioned University of San Diego shortstop Kyle Holder as a potential late-first or sandwich-round selection, so I made the trip to see him at Loyola Marymount over the weekend.
I'm not sure I get it. The defensive profile is there, with comfortable plus-arm strength and the range and actions to be an above-average to plus-defensive shortstop. The bat, however, gives me considerable pause. Holder has good hand-eye coordination and strength in his forearms, but I see a high-effort swing with fringe bat speed, wildly inconsistent feet and very little ability to move the bat around the zone. I have a future 40 on Holder's bat and a 35 on his game power. That might still play with plus defense at shortstop, and we've seen first-round picks used on players for that alone in the past. Holder has a good body, and his leadership ability stands out -- something that will no doubt appeal to scouts. I like him, but I certainly don't see a first-rounder here. I'd be thrilled to get him in Round 3 or 4.
More draft scouting notes
• San Diego righty David Hill threw 147 pitches in a complete-game effort on Friday night, pitching his last two innings with a three-run lead. If I was one of the 20 scouts in attendance for this game and my scouting director asked me about Hill in the draft room, the first thing out of my mouth would my concerns that Hill has been overworked, not that he's a good athlete with a chance to have three average or better pitches.
Hill sat 90-93 mph with his fastball and flashed an above-average curveball that settled in as average later in his start. He pitched heavily off the curveball and often had better command of it than he did his fastball; he also showed an ability to bury it in the dirt and throw it for strikes. His changeup is fringe average right now, but the arm speed is good, projecting to average for me with reps.
What scouts have to reconcile is whether Hill's solid athletic ability will eventually cure his presently below-average command. The delivery is quick and choppy, very rotational instead of driven by the lower half, and Hill had trouble repeating his release and slot, especially toward the end of his outing when, as I remind you, his pitch count climbed past a gross.
I like the stuff, as do scouts, but I'm moving him down my board beneath where stuff this good would usually grade out because of the command and the way I've seen (in person) how he has been handled.
• Loyola Marymount has its share of solid prospects, including SS David Fletcher and RHP Colin Welmon. Fletcher is an above-average runner with good hand-eye coordination and a solid swing, but the arm strength isn't quite enough for him to have a full-time gig at shortstop; I have a future utility grade on him. Welmon is a "pitchability" righty with fringe-average offerings across the board. He needs to figure out how to consistently get movement on his 88-91mph fastball, something that might be difficult considering how vertically oriented his arm slot is. He was good when it was moving on Friday, but San Diego hitters were teeing off on it when offered straight.
• Cal State Fullerton RHP Justin Garza shut down UC Riverside on Saturday but gave up more hard contact than the box score indicates. Garza was 90-94 mph with a little bit of run, also showing an average upper-70s slider and a below-average changeup. The arm works well, which will help allay concerns about how Garza's slender body will hold up under a professional workload, but his inability to miss bats makes me wonder whether a bullpen role would be best for him anyway to see if the stuff plays up a bit in shorter stints.
• Fullerton DH David Olmedo-Barrera is a bizarre prospect, one I'm excited to see in pro ball because of how atypical his skill set is. Barrera has above-average raw power and posted a plus run time for me but has well below-average bat speed and no defensive home. I can't think of another prospect with a tool profile that's even remotely similar to that.
• Verrado High School (Buckeye, Ariz.) outfielder Blake Perkins might be Arizona's first prep player selected. The Arizona State commit has a terrific grasp of center field -- quick and efficient reads, good routes and footwork -- and an above-average arm that projects to plus. The bat speed and bat control are lacking a bit, but Perkins proponents are hoping that physical development will cure some of his offensive ills.
• College of Southern Nevada right-handed pitcher Phil Bickford had his start moved up a day so he'd be on full rest next Thursday for the Coyotes' first playoff game. I was told he was slated to throw 50 or 60 pitches. He ended up throwing 90 and striking out 12 batters over six innings.
• JUCO playoffs are also slated to begin for Chipola JC (FL), home to OF Isiah Gilliam and LHP Mac Marshall. Gilliam exploded onto my radar during showcase work last year, when he hit a ball over the Western Metal Supply building at PETCO Park during a home run derby, while Marshall was part of headlines a few months before that as collateral damage in the Brady Aiken/Astros fallout. Both have performed well this season, with Gilliam leading the team in slugging as a freshman and the solidly built Marshall striking out 13 batters per nine innings.
• It was a big weekend for Florida State left fielder DJ Stewart, who was a combined 5-for-8 with two home runs on Friday and Saturday before Coastal Carolina just gave up trying to get him out and walked him three times Sunday.
• University of Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman was 1-for-11 on the weekend after going 5-for-5 in a midweek win over Arizona State.
• Draft-eligible sophomore CF Andrew Benintendi of Arkansas hit his 15th home run of the season on Saturday. He also has 20 steals.
• For the first time in many fortnights, there were no injuries to elite prospects this week.
Early scouting for the 2016 draft
• Oklahoma righty Alec Hansen had a rough outing against Oklahoma State on Saturday but has shown top-of-the-rotation potential during his sophomore year. When I saw Hansen early this season, he sat 94-97 with a mid-80s slider that was consistently plus. He's a 6-foot-7 kid and is still getting a feel for his body, so things like command and his work in the field come and go, but he's a massive arm talent with a chance to go first overall next year if he irons out some things.
• Blake Rutherford of Chaminade Prep (Los Angeles) has a chance to be the top pick in next year's draft as a big-bodied heavy hitter with a real chance to stick in center field. The UCLA commit is dealing with an injury that has him limited to pinch-hitting duty right now, so my look was extremely limited, but he showed glimpses of the thunder that scouts think will make him an impact bat in the plate appearance I caught.
• Shortstop Chase Strumpf of JSerra High School (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), another future Bruin, saw his team fall in the finals of the third annual Boras Classic tournament -- you can watch the replay on WatchESPN -- but showed a very easy, comfortable swing and all the actions and arm strength teams will be looking for in a shortstop prospect.