2010 Draft: Draft Eligible Sophomores

Spring Training Game Thread: Twins vs. Yankees, in progress
AL East Preview: Baltimore Orioles
The Indians failed to sign Tim Lincecum as a DES in

Major League Baseball’s amateur draft has some pretty quirky criteria for eligibility. If you graduated high school but haven’t attended college, you’re eligible. If you have a high school diploma and go to a four year school, you have to wait until age-21 to go back in, but if you go to a two year school you can re-enter the next year. Heck, if you’re 18-years-old and have your GED, you can be drafted as a high school junior like Jeremy Bonderman was. Trust me, there’s even more craziness that I don’t care to get into.

For the purposes of this post, all you need to know is that any four year college player who turns 21-years-old within 45 days of the draft is eligible to be selected, regardless of class. Most players don’t meet this criteria until their junior or senior years, but some make it earlier, hence draft eligible sophomores. Every so often you’ll see a draft eligible freshman, like Royals’ 2009 fourth rounder Chris Dwyer out of Clemson (the Yanks drafted him out of high school in 2008), but those guys are few and very far between.

Because they have the opportunity to go back to school for their junior year and re-enter the draft the next summer, DES’s have more negotiating leverage than most college draftees. A college junior can’t pull that trick because if they go back and complete their senior year, they’re out of college eligibility and will have absolutely no leverage in negotiations. Kentrail Davis, the top DES last year, received an over slot $1,200,000 bonus from the Brewers as the 39th overall pick, which is pretty typical for these kind of players.

As you probably guessed, DES’s have a better chance of falling in the draft due to signability. The Yankees took advantage of this to land Graham Stoneburner in the 14th round last year, giving him a well above slot $675,000 bonus to turn pro. This year’s crop of DES’s features one possible top ten pick and one really intriguing arm for later on in day one of the draft, so let’s dive in…

Cole Cook, RHP, Pepperdine
A semi-local kid who was born in New York City but later moved to Southern California, Cook ‘s father spent ten years on Broadway before making the jump to television and moving his family west in the late-90’s.. He goes by the screen name of Peter MacKenzie, and based on his IMDB page, chances are you’ve seen him in something. But I digress.

Cole took a redshirt as a freshman in 2008, then emerged as the team’s best arm the next season. He led the Waves in wins (7), innings pitched (83), strikeouts (79), batting average against (.195), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.95) in 2009, which earned him a spot on the All-WCC Freshman Team and the Louisville Slugger All-Freshman Team. Coming into the spring as the team’s ace, Cook has posted a 3.55 ERA (~2.20 FIP) with a 39-11 K/BB ratio in 45.2 innings over six starts this season.

Big and strong at 6-foot-6 and 220 lbs., Cook’s best pitch is his 91-93 mph fastball that runs back in on righties. He backs it up with low-80’s changeup and a pair of breaking balls: a sharp high-70’s slider and big loopy curveball. Both breaking balls are kinda sketchy, and chances are he’ll have to scrap the curve all together so he can focus on developing the slider down the road. Despite low walk totals and good control, Cook has to iron out his mechanics to firm up his stuff and be more consistent with his pitches in general. He uses a lower arm slot, something similar to Justin Masterson, which a) makes him very tough on righties, and b) is further reason to go with the slider. His makeup is off the charts, as he uses his older brother’s battle with leukemia for motivation.  Cook is considered a second round talent at the moment, but could easily pitch his way into first round consideration or bonus demand his way down to the double digit rounds.

Photo Credit: Phil Coale, AP

Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas
Arguably the top college hitter in the draft (NHD), Cox was part of the impressive crop of Kentucky high schoolers that featured four top three rounds talent in 2008. With all due respect to Robbie Ross, Danny Webb, and Nick Maronde, Cox is clearly the best of the group, and that was obvious even after he hit .266-.342-.558 as a freshman (solid, but unspectacular for a top college prospect). The righty hitter has displayed hitting prowess this spring, leading the Razorbacks in basically every offensive category with a .435-.527-.641 line and nearly twice as many walks (18) as strikeouts (10).

A shortstop in his younger years, Cox slid over to third base and may or may not stay there long-term. Regardless of where he ends up in the field, his bat will play. With supreme contact skills and an advanced approach, Cox is a good bet to hit for a high average and post strong on-base percentages in the future, though his power is more likely to come in the form of doubles than homers.  He’s pretty much maxed out physically at an even six feet and 215 lbs., so there’s not much projection left. What you see is what you’re going to get, and that’s a great hitter. He’s a top ten talent, and it’s unlikely the added leverage of being a DES will drop him to the bottom of the first round.

One more DES worth mentioning is Mark Canha of Cal, who brings defensive versatility and a well-rounded offensive game to the table. He’s similar to Xavier Nady, another Berkeley product, and has hit .368-.467-.529 while being a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base chances this year. Capable of playing the outfield, Canha has been stationed at first base this year in deference to more athletic outfielders. He’s expected to be a mid-round talent, somewhere in the 5th to 8th round range, but could easily fall more if teams don’t think he’s worth his asking price.

Given their perpetual spot near the end of the first round, the Yankees have to use other avenues to acquire top talent. While high schoolers are most commonly associated with the concept of signability, DES’s also bring some talent to table. Cox may be a bit of a pipe dream, but Cook is a very interesting arm that could be available by time the team’s third or fourth pick comes around.

Spring Training Game Thread: Twins vs. Yankees, in progress
AL East Preview: Baltimore Orioles
  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

    Heck, if you’re 18-years-old and have your GED, you can be drafted as a high school junior like Jeremy Bonderman was.

    Wait, you can have a GED and still continue to go to high school and be a junior? Doesn’t having a GED kinda remove you from high school? What’s the point of still being a junior when you’ve already “graduated”?

    I mean, we didn’t play Game 7 of the World Series after we clinched it in Game 6…

    • http://Riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I worded that poorly. He completed his junior year, got his GED, then entered the draft. He skipped over his senior year.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        Ah, okay. That makes sense.

        Nevermind my blathering.

    • http://www.progressamericana.com/ Pablo Zevallos

      I think Mike means that Bonderman got his GED in his junior year and subsequently got drafted.

  • http://www.progressamericana.com/ Pablo Zevallos

    Pete MacKenzie in Lorenzo’s Oil. I like it.

    I’m excited to finally see this post! Hopefully, Cook gets at least a good look by the Yanks…

    • Thomas

      Peter MacKenzie is also going to be in the movie The Chicago 8 with Philip Baker Hall, who is probably best known as Lt. Bookman from Seinfeld.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MF2gZu3ygEQ&feature=related (safe)

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Peter MacKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
      No one comes near
      Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
      What does he care?

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        That’s catchy. Bet it could be a solid song someday if you really work at it.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      What agency is he with? Six degrees of RAB, maybe?

  • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

    lincecum doesn’t look any older than he did in that pic. he will prob be one of those guys who is 40 and looks 25-35

  • A.D.

    Cox similar status as Suttle was a few years ago as a DES and “best bat”?

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      I think that’s a solid comparison. Average power, not very athletic, will probably have to move to RF but with excellent contact skills as a DES. It would seem Cox’s bat is a bit better, but I can’t think of a better comp.

  • A.D.

    Canha has been stationed at first base this year in deference to more athletic outfielders.

    Guessing no chance of CF, but can play the corners?

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      Makes sense.

    • Reggie C.

      And the organization could use a corner OF prospect aside from DeAngelo Mack, Neil Medchill, or Kelvin DeLeon. Mark Canha is 6’2, 200, and got displaced from the OF in favor of a couple athletic freshman. The Cal team is in transition so the coach is obviously thinking of developing as many freshman as possible. Apparently the Cal team lost its best 3 juniors last year to the draft (all picked in the first 50 selections).

      Canha is an interesting follow.

      Good article Mike.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        Fun Fact (although probably not really worth anything in the long run):

        The Yankees are planning on trying Mack in CF to see if he can handle it.

  • Kevin G.

    “Jonas” …. Mr. Phelps (1 episode, 2009)
    – That Ding You Do (2009) TV episode …. Mr. Phelps

    I knew Cook’s dad looked familiar.

  • xav921

    what if you have your GED go to a university play a year an leave school? would u still have to wait till 21? an i thought either it was if you went to a four year school you had to wait till either your junior year or until you turned 21 (which ever comes first)