MLB Draft prospects to watch this spring

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
2:42
PM ET
Rhett WisemanBB&NBB&N outfielder Rhett Wiseman has the potential to be taken in the first five rounds of this year's MLB Draft.
Last season at this time, we identified eight players from Massachusetts that would go on to get selected in June's Major League Baseball Entry Draft. Of the eight listed, six were taken, including Lawrence Academy's Tyler Beede 21st overall to the Blue Jays. Winnisquam (N.H.) righthander Jordan Cotealso went in the third round to the Yankees.

By all measures, it was one of the most loaded draft classes for pitching prospects in years. This season the Bay State comes back to Earth a little bit, but it is once again a unique class. BB&N outfielder Rhett Wiseman and Lexington first baseman Chris Shaw are considered the most draft-ready prospects, something you don't see often around these parts. Typically, pitching dominates the draft classes in New England, due to their projectability from a lack of live action in the offseason.

Further complicating things this year will be the new regulations on signing draft picks under the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, which includes a tax penalty on teams exceeding the designated salary slot recommendations for the sum of their picks in the first 10 rounds. Last year, that would have made teams more reluctant to draft prospects such as Lincoln-Sudbury's Adam Ravenelle (Vanderbilt) and St. John's Prep's Pat Connaughton (Notre Dame) -- two pitchers with first five-round potential who made their intentions to pursue college baseball well-known, and subsequently dropped all the way to day three.

With that in mind, I went over the prospects with an American League scout earlier this week, and he identified five players in Massachusetts who could possibly see their named called in June.

Rhett Wiseman, OF, BB&N
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 195 lbs.
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Hometown: Mansfield, Mass.
College: Vanderbilt
2011 Stats: .447, 12 doubles, 5 triples, 11 home runs, 29/29 stolen bases.
Scout’s Take: “Rhett is one of those outfielders who you look at and try to figure out if he can continue to progress as a Centerfielder, or if eventually you have to move him to Left because of his arm strength. The way his speed plays, you could probably keep him in center until he proves he can't handle it. Then the bat comes into play – is he a power guy or is he more of a speed guy who can make his power play? His power was on display in the bigger events last summer, but he’s also shown a propensity to strike out quite a bit against top-tier pitching. Obviously the power is going to be there as he gets older, but putting the ball in play and allowing his speed to show itself more consistently will be a big piece for him. Ultimately, I think he's a gap to gap guy who will be able to hit HR's as he learns to stay within himself and take what he is given. He’s shown the ability to play at a really high level, but it’s going to be a matter of whether people are willing to buy into his swing. He tends to get a little stiff on his front side; if he can smooth that out and show development and the ability to go the other way a little bit, he's going to put himself into the mix. It's a tough sign because of his commitment to Vanderbilt and the new CBA rules, but I can see someone taking a chance on that.”
Projection: First five rounds.

Chris Shaw, 1B, Lexington
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 230 lbs.
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Hometown: Lexington, Mass.
College: Boston College
2011 Stats: .484, 10 doubles, 8 home runs, 27 runs; 25 IP, 49 K, 7 BB, 8 hits, 5-0, 0.00 ERA
Scout’s Take: “He’s an interesting one. You go and look at him, and he’s got that typical look of a power guy, goes about 6-3, 6-4 ,225, 235ish. Supposedly he’s put more weight on over the winter and got stronger. Obviously, he can hit for power, the question is whether he can hit consistently for contact against upper-echelon pitchers. His swing is really smooth from the left-side and he generates some nice loft and backspin. The only issue is he tends to lose his rhythm in the box a little bit when the velocity picks up and the swings and misses can add up. That’s definitely correctable as he sees more of it at the next level and learns to make adjustments on a consistent basis. He’s really intent on going to BC, so you have to really believe in his bat if someone's going to make a run at signing him, but he has a chance to go pretty high if he shows a willingness to sign.”
Projection: First 15 rounds.

Max Tishman, LHP, Lawrence Academy
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 200 lbs.
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Hometown: Wellesley, Mass.
College: Wake Forest
2011 Stats: 32.2 IP, 45 K, 8 BB, 8 runs, 5-0, 1.70 ERA
Scout’s Take: “He’s a loose-arm lefty with a chance to throw three pitches for strikes, and he’s still very projectable. He put on 25 or 30 pounds over the winter, we’ll see how that plays in his development. He’s got a little bit of an unorthodox delivery with a quick-tempo delivery and a high leg kick, but that creates some deception for him and he’s shown the ability to repeat it, so I think you leave that alone. He flew under the radar last year, pitching at 165 pounds, but his velocity climbed from 86-87 to the 88-90 range by the end of summer. He put on that weight over the winter, and supposedly his velocity has climbed into the 88-91 range coming into this season, so who knows as weather warms up where he’ll go. He’s in the same boat as Jordan Cote was last year [Yankees third-round pick from Sanbornton, N.H.], where people might be climbing onto the bandwagon as the season goes on. Nice three-pitch mix there with a fastball to both sides of the plate and a slider and changeup to complement that. He works really fast out there and has shown a propensity to pitch down in the zone. He could be really interesting if his velocity holds in that 88-92 range, because there aren't many high school lefties, who can mix three pitches of that quality.”
Projection: First 15 rounds.

Matt Tulley, RHP, Lowell
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 200 lbs.
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Hometown: Lowell, Mass.
College: Virginia Tech
2011 stats: 42 IP, 68 K, 7-0, 0.82 ERA; .280, 17 RBI
Scout’s Take: “He came onto the scene a little bit at some of the high profile events last summer like Area Code Games. He’s similar to Barrett O’Neill [Ashland resident and Virginia freshman], where there’s not a ton of projectability but his velocity is in the 88-91 range with some downward angle on his fastball and he's shown the ability to compete in the strike zone. He surprised a lot of guys at the Area Code tournament, putting his fastball by people, and complementing that by getting swings and misses with his cutter. Most people view him as a college guy right now, but that could change. His velocity climbed over the winter, and he’s got a chance at the 91-92 range as well. You never know with a player like that, if someone views him as being signable, a team might make a run at him in the middle rounds
Projection: Fringe/late rounds.

John Nicklas, RHP, St. Sebastian’s
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 180 lbs.
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Hometown: Foxborough, Mass.
College: Boston College
Scout’s Take: “Another competitor out of the ISL who’s a pretty polished three-pitch, four-pitch guy. His fastball is consistently in the 87-89 range, with a cutter, curve, and changeup; he attacks with all four of those pitches. He doesn’t necessarily have the projectable body you're looking for out of the high school ranks, but he’s got a quick arm and really competes well. He’s similar to John Gorman [former Catholic Memorial ace and BC freshman] or John Leonard from BC last year, just kind of a bulldog out there. His curve is a little bit more of a tighter two-plane breaking ball without a ton of depth and he throws it pretty firm. A lot of his pitches come in hard, and there’s not a ton of separation. That’s something he’ll want to improve upon. Very good high school pitcher, who I expect to have a lot of success in college as well.”
Projection: Fringe/late rounds.

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