Damon Sublett | 2B
Sublett grew up in Wichita, KS, where he starred as both a hitter and pitcher for Northwest High School. Sublett lettered all four years, and batted .468 over his high school career. He also throw a complete game one-hitter with 14 strikeouts against rival Southeast, helping the Grizzlies to the state tournament. He was named the team’s MVP and First Team All-State in 2002 and 2004 (his sophomore and senior years), and also earned First Team All-City honors from 2002 to 2004.
Northwest has a respectable baseball tradition, but Sublett is far and away the best player to come out of the school. Heavily recruited by the three major baseball programs in the state (Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State), Sublett ultimately decided to stay close to home and attend WSU, majoring in psychology.
An instant starter for the Shockers, starting 60 of 65 games as a freshman, Sublett hit .314 with 43 runs scored, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 1 homer, 35 RBI and 13 stolen bases. He also served as the team’s closer, going 2-0 with 9 saves in 19.1 IP. He did not allow an earned run, and struck out 31 while holding opposing hitters to a .098 BAA. He was named the Valley Freshman of the Year, a First-Team Freshman All-American as a utility player, and Second-Team All-Valley at second base. He was also named to the All-Regional team in the postseason.
Sublett battled mononucleosis and a broken hamate bone as a sophomore, but he still hit .394 with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 10 homers, 45 RBI and 12 steals while starting games at second, short, and DH. He led the conference in batting average and homers. He also picked up 7 saves on the mound, striking out 23 batters in 12.1 IP, and again allowing zero earned runs. He was named First-Team All-Valley, First-Team All-Region, First-Team All-American by The College Baseball Foundation, and Third-Team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, the American Baseball Coaches Association, and Baseball America. Sublett also was a semi-finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy (current Royal Alex Gordon won the award), which goes to college baseball’s player of the year as voted by the National College Baseball Writers Association.
Sublett had another standout year as a junior, although he battled a series of injuries that included a strained back (suffered when he slipped on ice), a strained knee ligament, shoulder tenderness and a strained hammy. He finished the year with a .354-.462-.496 line with 15 doubles, 4 triples, 5 homers and 45 RBI. The injuries limited him on the mound, as he was only able to contribute 3.2 innings of 1 hit ball, although he did allow the first (and only) earned runs of his career in the back-end of April 15th doubleheader against Southern Illinois (he did go 4 for 5 with 4 runs scored and 4 RBI in the game, so he more than made up for it).
Many liked Sublett better as a pitcher than a hitter heading into the draft, although the injuries his junior year ended any chance of him being taken as a pitcher. Sublett was projected to be picked in the top three or four rounds before the season, but he fell to the Yanks in the 7th round (#244 overall) of the draft. He agreed to an above slot $120,000 bonus in the days following the draft.
Sublett was assigned to Short Season Staten Island after signing, and hit in the #3 spot for the Baby Bombers all season. He mashed, compiling a .326-.426-.531 line to go along with 19 doubles, 3 triples, 8 homers and 53 RBI, and finished 6th in the NY-Penn League in BA, 4th in OBP, 2nd in SLG, 6th in doubles and 7th in hits. He also led the league in RBIs. Sublett missed a handful of games after being hit by a pitch (I’m not sure where it got him), but he returned to help SI sneak into the NY-PL playoffs.
Because I know you’re wondering, Sublett’s combined line in 2007 (college and pros) was .341-.461-.512 with 100 runs scored, 34 doubles, 7 triples, 13 homers, 98 RBI, 92 BB, 87 K, 24 SB, 6 CS in 137 games. In the words of a young Martin Lawrence: damn Gina!
Sublett’s most dynamic tools come on the mound. He sat at 91-93 with his fastball at WSU, and had a nasty knuckle-curve that was rated as one of the best breaking pitches in the draft class. His delivery is a bit herky-jerky but provides good deception.
Off the mound, Sublett has a good amount of pop for a middle infielder, and runs very well. His best offensive attribute is his plate discipline, as he walks a ton and works deep counts on a regular basis. He should be an above average offensive second baseman, but he’s no Chase Utley. In the field he’s obviously got a strong arm (especially for a second baseman), and his hands and footwork will do. He’s a grinder and gritty, all those things that everyone seems to love. You can see his scouting video here.
To call Sublett’s medical history checkered would be an understatement; he’s had multiple injuries per season for a few years now. The good news is that he played through all the injuries and produced at a high level. Because he works deep into counts, he also strikes out a ton. Everything Sublett does is a bit unorthodox, he has a long swing and a funky stance in the box, and a weird running style on the basepaths. It works for him though, so whatever.
Sublett is ticketed for High-A Tampa (Wilmer Pino is no obstacle for him), where he should continue to hit in the middle of the lineup. WSU’s Frank Eck Stadium (330 down the lines and 400 into the gaps) is a far worse hitting environment than the Florida State League, so it shouldn’t be a big adjustment to him.
Sublett and I have a little bit of a history – I ragged on him way back in the day for comparing The Eck to Yankee Stadium, and I also featured him as a guy the Yanks could target in the draft earlier in the year. Now all that stuff was a long time ago – things change, players get hurt, but it’s always fun rewinding the prospect clock a bit.
Anywho, I under-rated Sublett in my last Top 30 Prospects list, leaving him off entirely. Barring a massive influx of prospects via trade, Sublett will crack my next list when it comes out in Spring Training. He’s not going to be good enough to push Robbie Cano off second, so I’d like to see him increase his versatility a bit. Maybe play a little short and/or third, just to boost his value. I like Sublett, but I think he’s too talented and had far too prominent a college career to be considered a sleeper. And heck, if the wheels ever fall off, they can always stick him back on the mound.