Friday, January 13, 2012
Mitchell Traver highlights 2012 Texas class
By Jason A. Churchill
Houston Christian (Houston) senior right-hander Mitchell Traver struck out 61 batters in 42.1 innings last season.
Texas, much like California and Florida, traditionally produces big-time baseball prospects for both the college and pro ranks. Top prospects such as Sherman (Texas) right-hander Kyle Crick (No. 49 overall in 2011), The Woodlands (Texas) right-hander Jameson Taillon (No. 2 overall in 2010), McKinney (Texas) right-hander Zach Lee (No. 28 overall in 2010) and Brownwood (Texas) right-hander Shelby Miller (No. 19 overall in 2009) highlight the recent top talent from the state.
The list of current and former MLB stars from the Lone Star State is extensive. There’s pitching legend Nolan Ryan, this year’s National Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, and Red Sox ace Josh Beckett, to name a few.
While it’s way too early to tell if anyone from this year’s high school senior class is bound for Cooperstown, there’s no doubt that the group is talented.
Here’s a list of the Top 10 Texas high school baseball prospects from the Class of 2012.
1. Mitchell Traver, RHP, Houston Christian (Houston) Traver has hit 95 mph on the radar gun and pitches at 92-93 with a curveball and developing changeup. His size -- 6-foot-7, 250 pounds -- may concern some clubs, but he's far from soft and the velocity is easy. His arm action is another concern, and his control and command need significant improvement, but the upside outweighs those worries and Traver projects as a first-round pick. He's also considered a potential tough sign, however, as he's committed to TCU. Traver fanned 61 batters in 42.1 innings last season and posted an ERA of 2.31.
2. Courtney Hawkins, RHP/OF, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas) Hawkins is more of a prospect as a bat, but he also consistently hits the low-90s on the mound. He runs well and handles right field, but his power bat is his calling card. At the Area Code games in August, he displayed big, raw power in batting practice. The Longhorns could be adding a future star to their lineup, but Hawkins is a first-round talent with a backup plan as a pitcher. He went 10-2 last season with a 2.35 ERA and 81 strikeouts.
3. Billy “Nick” Williams, OF, Ball (Galveston, Texas) Williams is what one scout calls a "ridiculously gifted kid," possessing plus speed -- he's been time in the 6.4s in the 60-yard dash -- and has hit 90 mph off the mound. His athleticism and power lefty swing come from a 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame that may profile in center field, a la the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Bernie Williams and a young Andruw Jones. Williams has shown big power on pitches middle-in, and an improving ability to hit the ball hard to the opposite field. He's destined for the top 50 and could hit his way into the first round if he's not set on heading to Austin to play for the Longhorns.
4. C.J. Hinojosa, SS, Klein Collins (Spring, Texas) Hinojosa was originally slated to enroll early at Texas, but he'll be draft-eligible after all. He ranks No. 4 here thanks to terrific hands and feet and a strong arm, as well as an ability to square up pitches regularly. He's a plus shortstop at present but may profile better at second base or even at the hot corner. His hands are lightning quick and he attacks pitches on the inner half. The belief around the industry is that his commitment to the Longhorns is strong, so that is likely to impact his draft stock and keep him out of the top 50.
5. Austin Dean, 3B, Klein Collins (Spring, Texas) Dean is developing physically, showing corner strength despite measuring out at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. Has above-average power, but his best attribute is his hit tool, which grades above-average. He also has good feet and a strong, accurate arm. Dean could sneak into the sandwich round with a big year, and if the power continues to develop he could be some club's starting third baseman in the mold of a David Freese. Deane does have the option to play at the University of Texas, however, so a pro contract is no sure thing.
6. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP, Southwest Christian High School (Fort Worth, Texas) Stankiewicz, who has signed on to play at Arkansas as part of their blue-chip class, offers projection thanks to a 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame and some athleticism. He sits in the 89-92 mph range with more velocity on the way. His best breaking ball is a firm slider that has flattened in games but has tilt and late break. The right-hander also offers a curveball with good shape. As with most prep arms, his changeup needs a lot of development.
7. Wyatt Mathisen, C, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas) Mathisen could shoot up the draft boards with a strong senior season after impressing on the summer circuit. His arm strength grades as above average and scouts raved about his accuracy. He offers quick wrists and a sound approach at the plate. There's raw power there, too, but Mathisen's draft stock will be tied to both his bat and his future behind the dish. This Texas Longhorns commit could be considered as early as the second round in June’s draft.
8. Spencer Edwards, SS/OF, Rockwall (Texas) Edwards, who's headed to Austin to play for the Longhorns if he passes on pro ball, possesses oodles of athleticism, which allow him to play shortstop in high school. He may fit better as an outfielder, and is a two-sport star, also serving as a star defensive back and wide receiver in football. He's run 60-yard dashes in under 6.7 seconds and 40-yarders in the 4.4 range. His swing and overall plate skills are a bit raw, but if he focuses on baseball, he could be an everyday player in time.
9. Austin Aune, SS, Argyle (Texas) Aune was among the more entertaining players at the Area Code Games in August and continued to impress over the rest of the summer. He's a natural shortstop but bats left-handed, a rarity in baseball. Defensively, he shows fluid actions, good hands and enough arm strength to stay at short. And if he outgrows the position, he possesses plenty of speed and arm strength to move to center field. Such skills suggest he's headed for consideration early on Day 2, if not sooner. Aune, who quarterbacked Argyle to the Class 3A, Division II state final this fall, has committed to TCU for football and baseball.
10. Jake Thompson, RHP/1B, Rockwall-Heath (Heath, Texas) Thompson, a TCU recruit, is a physical, power arm from the mound and has touched 93 mph with his fastball. He's at least dabbled with a slider, changeup and curveball, and is future will be on the mound if he can improve his secondary stuff and overall control. He swings a power stick in the batter's box, too, but is limited to first base, as he's not likely to hang on to enough athleticism to play the outfield regularly.
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 email@example.com.