High-SchoolBaseball: Nathan Kirby

MLB Draft Stock Watch: Olympia duo shines

May, 11, 2012
5/11/12
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Walker Weickel & Jesse WinkerMike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP ImagesOlympia (Orlando, Fla.) seniors Walker Weickel (left) and Jesse Winker have helped raise their draft stock while dominating for the No. 1 team in the FAB 50.
Each Friday from now until the end of May, Jason A. Churchill, who covers the MLB draft for ESPN Insider, will look at the high school prospects whose stock is up and whose stock is down heading into the draft, which begins on June 4.

The 2012 MLB draft is less than a month away and several top prospects are separating themselves from the pack, while others have seen their stock drop recently.

Prospects see their stock trend up or down in regards to the draft based on several key factors, including performance, signability and injury.

Then there’s the case of Nathan Kirby. We had mentioned this possibility last week, but the James River (Midlothian, Va.) right-hander is dead set on attending the University of Virginia and has told Major League Baseball that he will not be participating in the pre-draft program. Considered a Day 1 talent, Kirby is now virtually ineligible to be drafted, but could be a first-round pick in 2015.

Here’s an overall look at which prospects have helped and hurt their draft prospects since last week.

STOCK UP

Jesmuel Valentin, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
The son of former big-league infielder Jose Valentin has had a strong season and showed well recently, including at the Excellence Tournament in Puerto Rico late last week. He's a teammate of Carlos Correa, perhaps the No. 2 overall prep prospect in the entire class, so Valentin plays mainly second base. He's capable at short, however, and has enough arm to play there long term. He's a switch hitter, and though there are some questions about the lack of future power, there is bat speed to support a pro career.

Jesse Winker, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
Winker has performed well down the stretch and early in the postseason for FAB 50 No. 1 Olympia, including a 2-for-3 effort last week in the quarterfinals. He went yard in that game, a three-run shot, and has been consistently productive over the past few weeks. Winker is a Day 1 threat.

Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
McCullers’ domination – he didn’t allow an earned run during the regular season -- has continued during the postseason as he went all seven, fanning 13 and allowing just four hits. Amazingly, those were the most hits he’s allowed in a start all season. As one scout in attendance opined, “We got to see him really focus, and bow his neck today, and the results speak for themselves.”

Walker Weickel, RHP, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
Weickel, who started the spring as a potential top 15 pick before sliding a bit due to a velocity plateau, tossed a two-hit shutout last week in the regional quarterfinals to support Winker's offensive efforts. Weickel's still sitting 89-92 mph, but is showing better command of his fastball and breaking ball and projects well thanks to ideal size. The Miami commit could still land in Round 1 and is unlikely to be on the board when the second round begins.

Others Trending Up
Paul Blackburn, RHP, Heritage (Brentwood, Calif.)
Chase DeJong, RHP, Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.)
Steven Duggar, OF, Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.)
Daniel Robertston, SS/3B, Upland (Calif.)
Shane Watson, RHP, Lakewood (Calif.)

STOCK DOWN

Wyatt Mathisen, C/SS, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Mathisen has played well this year, but coming into the season much of his draft stock was based on profiling well as a catcher. He's been used primarily at shortstop this season, which has robbed scouts the chance to see him behind the plate, where he could project as a first-round pick.

Addison Russell, SS/3B, Pace (Fla.)
Russell's stock doesn't appear to have taken a major hit, but a few area scouts have expressed their doubts on his future position more so than earlier in the year. He's still a potential first-round pick, but clubs will have to really like the bat if they aren't confident he will stick at shortstop.

Matt Smoral, LHP, Solon (Ohio)
Smoral has missed most of the season with a foot injury. And while that isn't likely to cost him first-round status, it may ultimately keep him out of the top half of the round. Scouts were unable to check the progress of his breaking ball and especially the changeup, and the left-hander has lost development time.

Others Trending Down
Clint Coulter, C, Union (Camas, Wash.)
David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.)
Kieran Lovegrove, RHP, Mission Viejo (Calif.)

Jason A. Churchill covers scouting, player development and the MLB draft for ESPN Insider, as well as Prospect Insider, where he's the founder and executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider and email him at churchill@prospectinsider.com.

MLB Draft Stock Watch: Carson Kelly rises

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
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Carson kelly Westview, BBDustin Snipes/ESPNHSWestview (Portland, Ore.) infielder Carson Kelly has worked his way into the first-round mix.
Each Friday in May, Jason A. Churchill, who covers the MLB draft for ESPN Insider, will look at the high school prospects whose stock is up and whose stock is down heading into the draft, which begins on June 4.

The 2012 MLB draft is less than five weeks away and several of the top prep talents are jockeying for position on the event’s first day (June 4), which consists of 60 selections.

As the spring progressed, a number of prospects made big jumps, others held serve and a few saw their stock sink. There is still time for things to change again, but here is how I see it right now in terms of talent.

STOCK UP

Albert Almora, CF, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
Almora, an above-average defender in center field, has impressed scouts this spring with a consistent swing, plus speed and good overall plate skills that suggest he will hit for average and work counts as a professional.

Carson Kelly, 3B, Westview (Portland, Ore.)
Kelly's stock has risen 15 to 30 spots this spring, depending upon who is asked, and he now appears to be a firm first-round pick with a solid chance to be taken off the board in the top 20. He fields his position well and the ball jumps off his bat thanks to sound swing mechanics and strong, quick wrists.

Nick Travieso, RHP, Archbishop McCarthy (Lakewood Ranches, Fla.)
Travieso's most recent handful of starts have done wonders for his stock as the right-hander has seen a consistent uptick in velocity up to 99 mph, sitting 93-95. He's still a bit raw in some areas, but the arm strength may be enough for a first-round grade, albeit in the bottom quarter.

Corey Seager, 3B, Northwest Cabbarus (Concord, N.C.)
Seager, whom ESPN Insider's Keith Law wrote last week could go in the top 20, has impressed senior scouts and scouting directors with his ability to drive the ball to center and left field -- he's a left-handed hitter -- and he's doing it with pop. He's playing shortstop now but profiles as a future third baseman.

Mitch Gueller, RHP, W.F. West (Chehalis, Wash.)
Gueller has been up to the mid-90s in recent weeks and is beginning to draw some big-time attention that could mean a Day 1 selection. He's well built at 6-foot-3 or 4 and 200-plus pounds and offers a low-to-mid 70s curveball and low-80s changeup.

STOCK DOWN

Tanner Rahier, SS, Palm Desert (Calif.)
Many talent evaluators who saw Rahier last summer at the Area Code Baseball Games wrote him off as a shortstop and spoke of third base as a future position. Some of those same scouts now have questions about Rahier remaining on the infield at all. He does possess the arm and feet to stick at third and perhaps just needs more experience, but his bat may not play there, either. Rahier, however, has made believers out of at least two clubs, with the Atlanta Braves being linked to him in recent weeks. Whether that's for round 1 or later in the draft remains to be seen.

Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana (Lafayette, La.)
Trahan is hitting but questions remain about his defense, despite plenty of arm strength and great speed and overall athleticism for the catcher position. He began the spring as a potential top 20 pick, but the buzz surrounding the prep arms and infielders in that range could push Trahan to the compensation round.

Joey Gallo, 3B, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
Gallo's recent performance -- nine homers in his first 13 games after the USA Baseball National High School Invitational -- doesn't overshadow the struggles he endured at the tournament. He's pitched well, however, so his overall prospect status may remain. But as a bat, senior scouts are not convinced he's a top 30 player. Gallo, however, did go 5-for-5 with four home runs in a game two weeks ago and was intentionally walked in his final plate appearance -- with the bases loaded.

Freddy Avis, RHP, Menlo School (Atherton, Calif.) & Nathan Kirby, LHP, James River (Midlothian, Va.)
Both players are considered tough signs due to their strong commitments to school. Avis has signed on to pitch at Stanford, but he's making it awfully tough on himself as he could be first-round worthy. He's sat 91-94 mph of late and flashes a plus curveball. The fastball has life and he commands his pitches well.

Kirby, committed to the University of Virginia, has paired a sharper breaking ball in recent outings with a fastball in the 89-92 mph range. Kirby is considered a late Day 1 talent, but many believe he'll see the campus in Charlottesville, Va., and re-enter the draft in 2015.

HOLDING STEADY

Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Zach Eflin, RHP, Hagerty High School (Oviedo, Fla.)
Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe High School (Lake Charles, La.)
Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)

HOLDING DUE TO INJURY

Alex Bregman, C/SS, Albuquerque Academy (Albuquerque, N.M.)
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
C.J. Hinojosa, SS, Klein (Spring, Texas)
Rio Ruiz, 3B, Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.)
Matt Smoral, LHP, Solon (Ohio)

Jason A. Churchill covers scouting, player development and the MLB draft for ESPN Insider, as well as Prospect Insider, where he's the founder and executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider and email him at churchill@prospectinsider.com.

The Starting Nine: Preseason look

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
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The Starting NineMike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images, Scott Kurtz/ESPNHS(From left to right) Byron Buxton, Lucas Giolito and Joey Gallo are the three top preseason candidates for The Diamond Gem, the title bestowed upon the nation's most outstanding baseball player based on on-field performance.

With spring right around the corner, ESPNHS has begun its search for the nation’s top high school baseball player, regardless of school year and based solely on on-field performance.

Every two weeks, we’ll rank the nine players in order in The Starting Nine. And at the end of the season, whoever is in the top spot will be crowned The Diamond Gem, our award given to the nation’s most outstanding player.

So to kick it off, we give you our preseason Starting Nine. Leading the way is Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) senior Lucas Giolito, the nation’s top right-handed pitcher who dominated opposing hitters last season and has looked very much like an early first-round pick in the early going this year.

The Starting Nine: Preseason

1. Lucas Giolito, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
RHP, Senior
Why he’s here: The nation’s top right-hander, Giolito went 9-0 last year with a 1.00 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 70.1 innings. He also pitched four complete games, three of which were shutouts.

2. Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
1B/3B/RHP, Senior
Why he’s here: The top player on the top team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Gallo hit .471 last year with 25 homers and 78 RBIs while leading Gorman to its sixth straight state title. He also was 3-1 on the bump with a 1.12 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.

3. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
OF, Senior
Why he’s here: The nation’s top outfielder and potential top 10 pick in June’s MLB draft flirted with the .600 mark last season (he finished hitting .594) and clubbed 10 homers while driving in 48 runs.

4. Lance McCullers Jr., Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
RHP/SS, Senior
Why he’s here: The hard-throwing right-hander (he’s hit 100 mph on the radar gun) went 5-2 with a 1.71 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 45 innings last season for the Class 4A state runner-up. He also hit .422 with seven homers and 24 RBIs.

5. Kayden Porter, Spanish Fork (Utah)
RHP/OF, Senior
Why he’s here: Porter picked up ESPNHS National Junior of the Year honors last year after leading Spanish Fork to its third straight state title. He went 9-1 with 85 strikeouts in 59 innings and hit .570 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs.

6. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
SS, Senior
Why he’s here: Leader of Louisiana powerhouse picked up Gatorade State Player of the Year honors last season after hitting .548 with 10 homers, 41 RBIs and 32 stolen bases.

7. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
LHP, Senior
Why he’s here: The nation’s top lefty, Fried went 7-3 with a 1.31 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 69.2 innings at Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, Calif.). He transferred to Harvard-Westlake after Montclair Prep cut its athletics program.

8. Kyle Carter, Columbus (Ga.)
OF/LHP, Senior
Why he’s here: Carter, who starred on the Columbus team that won the 2006 Little League World Series, set a single-season school record with 22 homers last season to help Columbus earn its second straight state title and 11th overall. He also hit .467 with 47 RBIs and went 9-4 on the mound with a 2.33 ERA.

9. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
RHP/OF, Senior
Why he’s here: The leader of the No. 4 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Hawkins led Carroll to a state title as a sophomore and the state semifinals last season. As a junior, he hit .410 with 15 homers, 49 RBIs and 22 stolen bases and was 10-2 with a 2.35 ERA and 81 strikeouts.

ON DECK
Another 25 players we’re tracking to begin the 2012 season

OF Albert Almora, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.), Sr.
RHP Freddy Avis, Menlo School (Atherton, Calif.), Sr.
1B Keon Barnum, King (Tampa, Fla.), Sr.
RHP Ryan Burr, Highlands Ranch (Colo.), Sr.
C Zach Collins, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), Jr.
C Clint Coulter, Union (Camas, Wash.), Sr.
OF David Dahl, Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.), Sr.
RHP Ty Hensley, Santa Fe (Edmond, Okla.), Sr.
3B/RHP Carson Kelly, Westview (Portland, Ore.), Sr.
LHP Nathan Kirby, James River (Midlothian, Va.), Sr.
C Jeremy Martinez, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), Jr.
C/SS/RHP Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas), Sr.
OF/RHP Ty Moore, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), Sr.
3B/OF Mitch Nay, Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.), Sr.
1B/RHP Matt Olson, Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.), Sr.
3B Rio Ruiz, Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.), Sr.
SS Addison Russell, Pace (Fla.), Sr.
RHP Lucas Sims, Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.), Sr.
LHP Matt Smoral, Solon (Ohio), Sr.
1B/RHP Jake Thompson, Rockwall-Heath (Heath, Texas), Sr.
RHP/OF Keegan Thompson, Cullman (Ala.), Jr.
C Stryker Trahan, Acadiana (Lafayette, La.), Sr.
LHP Hunter Virant, Camarillo (Calif.), Sr.
RHP Walker Weickel, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.), Sr.
OF/LHP Jesse Winker, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.), Sr.

Max Fried leads Class of 2012 left-handers

February, 3, 2012
2/03/12
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Max FriedCourtesy of Matt LaCour/Harvard-WestlakeHarvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) senior Max Fried, who transferred from Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, Calif.) after it cut its athletics program, is the nation's top left-handed pitcher.

Each week from now until early March, we’ll take a look at the elite Class of 2012 high school baseball prospects by ranking our Top 10 players by position. This week, we unveil our list of the Top 10 left-handed pitchers, which has a familiar feel at the top with Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) southpaw Max Fried. Last week, we rated Fried’s teammate Lucas Giolito as the nation’s top right-hander.

1. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Fried is a fastball—curveball--changeup southpaw with projection in his 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame and a present fastball that has hit 94 mph. He's part of UCLA's tremendous recruiting class but is a good bet to go in the top half of the first round.

2. Matt Smoral, Solon (Ohio)
Smoral is interchangeable with Fried for the top spot. While Fried is further along in his development, Smoral brings more upside. At 6-foot-8, Smoral's 90-94 mph fastball comes easy and his slider works well from his three-quarters arm slot. He's a North Carolina commit but could go in the top 10 come June.

3. Hunter Virant, Camarillo (Calif.)
Virant, who could join Fried and right-hander Giolito at UCLA next season, is a first-round talent heading into the spring schedule. He sits in the 88-92 mph range and has topped out at 93, and the pitch carries some late life. He has good arm speed, which bodes well for his changeup.

4. Nathan Kirby, James River (Midlothian, Va.)
Kirby’s fastball--breaking ball combination is first-round worthy. And despite the lack of size at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, the southpaw sits in the 88-91 mph range with his heater. The development of a legitimate changeup could be the difference on draft day. Kirby has committed to Virginia.

5. Max Foody, IMG Baseball Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Foody, a Florida State commit, is big and strong at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, but he remains athletic and showed toughness in coming back from shoulder problems prior to last season. He employs a fastball, curveball and changeup, and has hit the low 90s in 2011. He could pitch his way into the first round with a strong spring.

6. Jack Wynkoop, Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, Va.)
Wynkoop lands at No. 6 mostly on projection. He's 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds and a solid athlete. He's pitched in the 84-87 mph range but touched 89 last summer and also offers a curveball, slider and changeup. He's a South Carolina signee, but could see his stock rise if the fastball becomes more firm and more consistently in the upper-80s to low-90s.

Brett Lilek
Scott Kurtz/ESPNHSMarian Catholic (Chicago Heights, Ill.) senior and Arizona State recruit Brett Lilek is the nation's No. 9 left-hander.
7. Kyle Twomey, El Dorado (Placentia, Calif.)
Twomey impresses with his ability to pitch, rather than throw, and his out pitch is curveball that flashes as a plus pitch. He's generally sat in the 85-88 mph range in games, but he has touched 91 in showcases. His fastball has also shown some arm side run. He's headed to USC if he doesn't sign a pro deal, but has a shot at a Day 1 selection, and the first round isn’t completely out of the question.

8. James Crownover, Ringgold (Ga.)
Crownover is a sturdy left-hander who has touched 95 on the radar gun. He uses his secondary stuff well, when necessary, and both his curveball and changeup has occasionally shown as above-average pitches. He lacks projection -- he's 6-feet tall -- so he's not likely a first-round talent, but the compensation round could be within reach.

9. Brett Lilek, Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights, Ill.)
Lilek offers a loose armed delivery that helps him get to the low-90s with his fastball. At times he looks the part of a first-rounder, teasing scouts in the process. The Arizona State commit also employs a curveball and change, both of which should eventually benefit from the top-end arm speed. But there are some concerns with the rest of the delivery, specifically his right leg, which lands a bit violently.

10. Austin Fairchild, St. Thomas (Houston)
Fairchild isn't built like the prototypical starting pitcher at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, but he reaches the low-90s with his fastball and also offers a curveball and changeup. He has good arm speed, too, but there is a lot of effort in his delivery, which could mean he's headed for the bullpen down the line. Fairchild is a TCU commit, and among the most likely of their better signees to actually get to campus next fall.

Jason A. Churchill covers scouting, player development and the MLB Draft for ESPN Insider, as well as Prospect Insider, where he's the founder and executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider and email him at churchill@prospectinsider.com.

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