2009 Draft Preview: Junior College Prospects

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Albert Pujols pwningWhen it comes to the amateur draft, most fans focus their attention on top high school and college prospects, but don’t really pay too much attention to junior colleges. It’s understandable because most of the best players in the country are recruited by four-year schools and end up there, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t talented players attending two-year institutions.

No team has worked the JuCo angle better than the Braves in recent years, which is no surprise since they dominated the draft-and-follow landscape for what seems like an eternity. They’ve landed premium prospects like Tyler Flowers, Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, and Cole Rohrbough out of junior colleges within the last four years alone. Beyond the Braves, players like Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Rich Harden, and one Mr. Jose Alberto Pujols have been drafted out of junior college, so you can bet there’s some gems to be found.

The most attractive aspect of JuCo players is that they offer the projectability and upside of a high school kid with some of the experience and fine tuning of a college player. The top pitchers haven’t been run into the ground for three years and the top hitters haven’t had enough time to develop bad habits with metal bats. I never really looked at JuCo prospects before, and I was surprised at how many quality players are out there. Here’s three of them; the good stuff is after the jump.

Jake CowanJake Cowan, RHP, San Jacinto College (Texas)
An infrequently used freshman reliever at Virginia, Cowan transferred to JuCo powerhouse San Jacinto to get more playing time and increase exposure, but becoming draft eligible a year earlier is a nice perk. The righthander has been one of the Coyotes’ most dominant pitchers, putting up a 45-11 K/BB ratio while allowing just 25 hits in 32.2 IP.

Rail thin and uberprojectable at 6′-3″, 170 lbs, Cowan works off his low-90’s two-seamer with heavy boring action. He can also throw a straight four-seamer with similar velocity, and backs that up with a pair of breaking balls. Cowan’s slider is his number two pitch, and it features late-break while touching the mid-80’s at times. His curveball is still a work in progress and is clearly his fourth best offering. Cowan has a smooth delivery with a clean arm action and excellent extension, adding life and deception to his pitches. His command is very good for a pitcher his age. Cowan has an arm worthy of a first day pick, and has major sleeper potential.

Dillon Hazlett, SS, Allen County CC (Kansas)
Dilon HazlettAn unheralded player coming out of Topeka High School, Hazlett headed to Allen County and has transformed himself into the best draft prospect in the state of Kansas, junior college or otherwise. He won Freshman of the Year honors after leading the team with 7 homers and 22 stolen bases. He also hit .384 with 12 doubles and 45 RBI in 36 games. Hazlett has managed to improve upon those numbers this year, hitting .454-.526-.754 with 25 steals.

Baseball America recently featured Hazlett in a post on their Draft Blog, giving us a brief scouting report:

A 6-foot-1, 191-pound sophomore, he’s an explosive athlete. He has plus speed, good actions and arm strength at shortstop, and quick hands at the plate that give him surprising pop.

The Yanks have improved their middle infield depth considerably in the last two years, drafting the likes of David Adams, Carmen Angelini, Garrison Lassiter, and Damon Sublett, but all of those players have their warts and none of them are out of A-ball. Committed to UNC, Hazlett is a first day player and would be a coup for the Yanks anywhere beyond their top two picks.

Daniel WebbDanny Webb, RHP, Northwest Florida State
The name probably sounds familiar, and that’s because Webb was a Top 50 talent for the 2008 Draft before bonus demands led to him slipping to the 12th round, when the Diamondbacks rolled the dice. He obviously didn’t sign, nor did he follow through on his commitment to Kentucky because of a coaching change.  Webb instead headed to Northwest Florida State, formerly known as Okaloosa-Walton College, where he’s allowed 55 hits with a 41-30 K/BB ratio in 52.1 IP covering 12 starts.

Despite his underwhelming stats, Webb still has the power arm and power stuff that had him demanding seven figures last year. He dials his fastball up to 92-94 and can touch 96, but both of his breaking balls are works in progress. Webb is a bit of a project and will require patience, but his delivery is surprisingly sound. He clearly has the highest upside of any JuCo player available in this year’s draft, and might still be around when the Yanks pick in the fourth round, #135 overall.

* * *

The Yankees forfeited their top three draft picks as free agent compensation, and scouring an often underappreciated talent resource can help them make up for the lack of early picks. I really like Cowan’s combination of present stuff and future projection, so I prefer him to the less refined Webb. This draft class lacks impact college middle infielders beyond the top three or four players, so it’s possible a team will reach for a Hazlett. If not, he’d be a rock solid addition to the system and would immediately become the best in-house Life After Jeter option.

With the way teams are scouting every corner of globe for talent these days, it’s only a matter of time before the hidden gems of junior colleges become unhidden, and that day is fast arriving.

Photo Credits: Pujols via Flickr user SD Dirk, Cowan via David Petkofsky (UVa), Hazlett via Jocelyn Sheets (Iola Register) via ACCC, Webb via WPSD Local 6

RAB Reader Demographic Survey
Matt Murton: Depth replenisher
  • A.D.

    Would Hazlett appear to be able to stay at SS?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      It sounds like he’s athletic enough to handle it, if not be an asset there. He certainly won’t outgrow the position at his size.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        And to be clear, when you say that “Hazlett is a first day player and would be a coup for the Yanks anywhere beyond their top two picks” you mean that we shouldn’t draft him with the pick we have in either the first round (#29) or second round (#76) but that our fourth rounder (#135) would be an appropriate spot to take him?

        You still like Jiovanni Mier with our #29 pick? Still think he’s got a good shot of being there?

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Yep, fourth rounder would be appropriate for Hazlett. 49th overall is too soon.

          Mier’s stock is dropping slightly, he’s more of a 35-40 range guy, so he should be there at 29. It’s not that he’s struggling, it’s just that other guys have passed him. Looks like they might actually get a crack at Matt Davidson at #29, or the equally impressive Bobby Borchering.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Hmm. You think we take Davidson or Borchering to be the 3B of the future and move ARod to DH in 4 years or so?

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              I think you take them because they’ll probably be the best players available. Worry about position later.

            • A.D.

              They could always move to the outfield.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


                Would be nice to move ARod to DH down the line, though, cut down on wear and tear.

                We are married to him, after all…

                • A.D.

                  Agreed and far more logical than the Tex Arod platoon at 1B

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            You know what would be an awesome way to preview it:

            Give us the list of guys you think will be in the range of the Day 1 picks we have (like, say, for pick #29, the players you guesstimate would be in the pick 25-40 range) and your preference of who you’d take out of those groups.

            So, at #29 you think Borchering, Davidson, Mier, and LeMahieu will be available and you’d take Davidson, at #76 you think Players X, Y, and Z should be there and you’d take Y, etc. etc.

            That, plus which good talents you think slip right past the first 5 rounds, would be awesome.

            • A.D.

              That would be a great way to do it, especially since inevitably people are going to ask right away.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              I usually wait until we get closer to the draft to do something like that. Doing in February or even April is a waste of time since soooo much changes.

              Plus the Yankees are hard to predict, just when you expect them to roll the dice on a high profile guy that falls, they take Ian Kennedy.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                Fair enough.

          • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            Related question… Davidson and Mier are a couple of guys I think some of us are keeping an eye on since you profiled them, they seem to fill needs in the system and they might be available when the Yankees pick. They’re both committed to USC. Does USC have a rep as a school from which it’s tough to break commitments, a la Stanford? Has there been any indication that teams see either of these guys as the types to either want to go pro or to want to go to school? I know it’s early on that second question about particular prospects’ intentions, just wondering.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              No, kids are bought away from USC all the time. Stanford’s the tough one.

              • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi


              • Andy in Sunny Daytona

                Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton had committed to USC, albeit to play football, but I’m sure the baseball coach would not have mind him being on his squad.

                (BTW he is by far my favorite prospect that is not a Yankee, and I think that he should go go by the Giancarlo Cruz, it’s a lot cooler.)

        • A.D.

          den Dekker, he has grit written all over him

  • A.D.

    Yankees have a shot at Kentrail Davis?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      I was figuring with Davis being a draft eligible sophmore and being a Boras client with a high demand, he probably slips right out of the first day (which is the first 5 rounds).

      We should be able to snag Davis somewhere in the 6th-8th rounds, right?

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        I think so. He’s not having a great year, so he won’t go in the first round, but he’ll want that kind of money.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Hmm, so it’s not crazy of me to dream of a draft that looks like this:

          1. #29- 3B Matt Davidson, Yucaipa HS
          2. #76- Dunno, probably a lefty pitcher… James Paxton from UK?
          4. #135- SS Dillon Hazlett, Allen County CC
          5. #165- ??
          6. #195- CF Kentrail Davis, Tennessee
          7. #215- ??

          • A.D.

            Would 7th round pick be # 225?

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


              I suck at life.

  • A.D.

    So do most JuCo players (that actually have any prospect status) get drafted, or transfer to 4 year programs?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I honestly don’t know. I’m guessing that the majority that are actually prospect turn pro rather than head to a different school.

      • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/baseballdigestdaily Eric SanInocencio

        From my knowledge most go to junior college in the first place so that they have the two opportunities to assess their professional status before having to make that decision.

        If its not that, there are sometimes grade issues that force kids that route. If that’s the case then they will HAVE to turn pro, and I think Webb may fall in that category (just what I heard, could be wrong).

        Junior colleges are very prevalent in the South (I think the weather plays a factor) and I know kids target these places to get to the pros quicker if they aren’t happy with where they were taken as high scholers. So if I had to guess, I’d feel comfortable saying turning pro is the most prevalent.

  • A.D.

    Cowan has some video game numbers.

  • A.D.

    So from the write up Webb has some nice stuff, but then the numbers aren’t all that impressive, and then toss in that its JuCo and not the SEC.

    Is it that he is that raw & really not that good of a pitcher yet?

  • Andy

    Take a look at Anthony Collazo, prospect from Patterson, NJ, plays for Howard College, ranked #1 in the nation. He is their ace, great stuff, lefty, only downside is his height.

  • Matt L

    Any chance that Donovan Tate falls to 29. He is by far my favorite prospect in the draft, I would love an outfield with him and Ajax, 5 years down the road.

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