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Friday, May 4, 2012
MLB Draft Stock Watch: Carson Kelly rises

By Jason A. Churchill

Carson kelly Westview, BB
Westview (Portland, Ore.) infielder Carson Kelly has worked his way into the first-round mix.
Each Friday in May, Jason A. Churchill, who covers the MLB draft for ESPN Insider, will look at the high school prospects whose stock is up and whose stock is down heading into the draft, which begins on June 4.

The 2012 MLB draft is less than five weeks away and several of the top prep talents are jockeying for position on the event’s first day (June 4), which consists of 60 selections.

As the spring progressed, a number of prospects made big jumps, others held serve and a few saw their stock sink. There is still time for things to change again, but here is how I see it right now in terms of talent.

STOCK UP

Albert Almora, CF, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
Almora, an above-average defender in center field, has impressed scouts this spring with a consistent swing, plus speed and good overall plate skills that suggest he will hit for average and work counts as a professional.

Carson Kelly, 3B, Westview (Portland, Ore.)
Kelly's stock has risen 15 to 30 spots this spring, depending upon who is asked, and he now appears to be a firm first-round pick with a solid chance to be taken off the board in the top 20. He fields his position well and the ball jumps off his bat thanks to sound swing mechanics and strong, quick wrists.

Nick Travieso, RHP, Archbishop McCarthy (Lakewood Ranches, Fla.)
Travieso's most recent handful of starts have done wonders for his stock as the right-hander has seen a consistent uptick in velocity up to 99 mph, sitting 93-95. He's still a bit raw in some areas, but the arm strength may be enough for a first-round grade, albeit in the bottom quarter.

Corey Seager, 3B, Northwest Cabbarus (Concord, N.C.)
Seager, whom ESPN Insider's Keith Law wrote last week could go in the top 20, has impressed senior scouts and scouting directors with his ability to drive the ball to center and left field -- he's a left-handed hitter -- and he's doing it with pop. He's playing shortstop now but profiles as a future third baseman.

Mitch Gueller, RHP, W.F. West (Chehalis, Wash.)
Gueller has been up to the mid-90s in recent weeks and is beginning to draw some big-time attention that could mean a Day 1 selection. He's well built at 6-foot-3 or 4 and 200-plus pounds and offers a low-to-mid 70s curveball and low-80s changeup.

STOCK DOWN

Tanner Rahier, SS, Palm Desert (Calif.)
Many talent evaluators who saw Rahier last summer at the Area Code Baseball Games wrote him off as a shortstop and spoke of third base as a future position. Some of those same scouts now have questions about Rahier remaining on the infield at all. He does possess the arm and feet to stick at third and perhaps just needs more experience, but his bat may not play there, either. Rahier, however, has made believers out of at least two clubs, with the Atlanta Braves being linked to him in recent weeks. Whether that's for round 1 or later in the draft remains to be seen.

Stryker Trahan, C, Acadiana (Lafayette, La.)
Trahan is hitting but questions remain about his defense, despite plenty of arm strength and great speed and overall athleticism for the catcher position. He began the spring as a potential top 20 pick, but the buzz surrounding the prep arms and infielders in that range could push Trahan to the compensation round.

Joey Gallo, 3B, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
Gallo's recent performance -- nine homers in his first 13 games after the USA Baseball National High School Invitational -- doesn't overshadow the struggles he endured at the tournament. He's pitched well, however, so his overall prospect status may remain. But as a bat, senior scouts are not convinced he's a top 30 player. Gallo, however, did go 5-for-5 with four home runs in a game two weeks ago and was intentionally walked in his final plate appearance -- with the bases loaded.

Freddy Avis, RHP, Menlo School (Atherton, Calif.) & Nathan Kirby, LHP, James River (Midlothian, Va.)
Both players are considered tough signs due to their strong commitments to school. Avis has signed on to pitch at Stanford, but he's making it awfully tough on himself as he could be first-round worthy. He's sat 91-94 mph of late and flashes a plus curveball. The fastball has life and he commands his pitches well.

Kirby, committed to the University of Virginia, has paired a sharper breaking ball in recent outings with a fastball in the 89-92 mph range. Kirby is considered a late Day 1 talent, but many believe he'll see the campus in Charlottesville, Va., and re-enter the draft in 2015.

HOLDING STEADY

Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Zach Eflin, RHP, Hagerty High School (Oviedo, Fla.)
Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe High School (Lake Charles, La.)
Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)

HOLDING DUE TO INJURY

Alex Bregman, C/SS, Albuquerque Academy (Albuquerque, N.M.)
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
C.J. Hinojosa, SS, Klein (Spring, Texas)
Rio Ruiz, 3B, Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.)
Matt Smoral, LHP, Solon (Ohio)

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 churchill@prospectinsider.com.