Draft Prospect Q&A Rumors

Q&A With MLB Draft Prospect Scott Kingery

The 2015 MLB Draft begins on Monday, June 8th and runs until Wednesday, June 10th.  In anticipation of the draft, MLBTR caught up with University of Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery, one of the most highly regarded players in this year’s class.

Tomorrow night, Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery will be waiting to hear his name called from Secaucus, New Jersey.  Just three years ago, few could have imagined that Kingery would be in line to be a Day 1 draft pick or to even get drafted at all.  Kingery was a very solid player coming out of Phoenix, Arizona’s Mountain Pointe High School, but he was overlooked by schools largely because he was only 5’7″ tall.

Kingery arrived at the University of Arizona as a walk-on, made the team, and started really making a name for himself in his sophomore year.  An awful lot has changed over the last three years – not just Kingery’s stature.  Today, he is rated as the No. 25 draft prospect in the country by ESPN.com’s Keith Law, No. 40 by Baseball America, and No. 42 by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.  Kingery took some time out of his busy schedule late last week to chat with MLB Trade Rumors about his career at Arizona, his draft stock, and his MLB future.

Zach Links: It’s pretty rare to see a college walk-on go on to become a top draft prospect. In 2012, did you think you’d be in this position today?

Scott Kingery: Definitely not. That’s not something that I had in mind going into my freshman year, especially as a walk-on player. I didn’t have a spot on the roster yet for sure, so at that point, I was just trying to find a spot on the team.

It was pretty late in the summer when an assistant coach came down to watch me play in a tournament. They offered me a recruited walk-on spot, which means that you have a place on the fall roster but nothing is guaranteed for the spring roster. So, I wasn’t thinking about the majors at all at that point.

ZL: Did you consider taking scholarship offers from other schools, whether it was D-I or D-II?

SK: I was committed to going to a junior college in Arizona, but other than that, I didn’t have any D-I, D-II, or D-III offers for baseball.  So, it was pretty much go to junior college or just take my chances at Arizona.

ZL: You turned the corner in a big way from your freshman year to your sophomore year. What changed for you?

SK: I think each year you play in the Pac-12 you just get a little bit more confident.  I gained experience and I learned a lot.  I think in your first year as a freshman you come in and don’t know what to expect.  The level of play from high school to college increases so much. But, I learned more and more each year and built off of that.

ZL: Your double play partner, Kevin Newman, is considered to be one of the very best draft prospects in this year’s class. Did you feel like you’ve pushed each other over the years to excel?

SK: Yeah, when I was in the outfield the first few years I didn’t spent that much time with him.  Now I’m at second base and we push each other and that helps us play better.  This year he become one of my roommates and that’s when I realized how truly competitive we are with each other.  Literally everything is a competition between us.

ZL: How does that competitive spirit between the two of you manifest itself off the field?

SK: If it’s video games, we’re competing.  One night we were mini golfing and it got intense.  We started even having competitions in the weight room and seeing who could get to school the fastest.

ZL: You played second base while at Arizona but there has been talk of your skills translating to shortstop.  Could you see yourself playing shortstop at the big league level? How comfortable are you at shortstop?

SK: Since I haven’t been there in a few years, I think it would take some getting used to again. But that was my home all through high school.  College is the only time I haven’t played there really…I think I could definitely play shortstop.  I think a lot of teams want to see me try that out, too.  If it doesn’t work, they can always throw me back to second base.

ZL: Do you have a preference between playing shortstop or second base?

SK: I’ve always loved playing shortstop more but playing second base isn’t too bad either.

ZL: Why do you like playing shortstop more?

SK: I don’t know why, but that’s just always been where I’ve been the most comfortable.  I grew up playing that position and I just want to get back over there.  When you’re at shortstop you feel like you’re kind of in the head role, kind of captain on the field.  I’d like to get back to that.

ZL: There always seems to be skepticism surrounding shorter players, even when they’ve proven their ability time and time again like you have. Do you feel like any concern about you being under 6-feet tall is overblown?

SK: At this point, I don’t think that’s gonna come into play, but that was definitely one of the big reasons why I didn’t get a scholarship offer out of high school.  I was 5’7″, 150 pounds heading into college so I think everyone saw that small stature and they didn’t want to take a chance.  Now, I think I’ve proven myself over multiple years so I don’t think that my small stature matters much.  Also, I’m 5’10.5″ now and I’ve put on 25 or 30 pounds, so it’s a different story.

ZL: What are you hearing about where you might get drafted?

SK: It’s kind of all over the place, but I’ve been hearing and reading that it could be somewhere in the No. 20-50 range.  Hopefully I’ll get drafted towards the top of that, but, we’ll see.  Anything can happen.

ZL: What do you think sets you apart from other middle infielders in this class?

SK: I’ve proven that I can hit at multiple levels.  I did it in college and I did it in the Cape Cod league.  That, along with my speed, sets me apart.  I’ve shown that I can create havoc on the basepaths with my speed and my bat really just improved each year at Arizona.  I also got even more comfortable with my range this year and I made things happen on defense as well.

ZL: What’s the main thing you want to work on?

SK: I want to work on my footwork at second base because that can always get better.  I also want to make sure that I stay aggressive at second base.  It’s a short throw so sometimes you can find yourself getting complacent and sitting back on a ball rather than getting the right hop.  I like to be aggressive and get right to the ball.

ZL: Last summer in the Cape Cod League, you showed that you can still rake with a wooden bat. Do you sense that has helped your draft stock somewhat?

SK: Definitely. The top players in college are in the Cape Cod league so going there, facing that pitching, and putting up some good numbers really shows the scouts that I have a good swing and that it doesn’t matter if I’m swinging wood or metal.

ZL: Everyone loves to compare draft prospects to current players.  What major league player would you say that your skill set is similar to?

SK:  I’d say I’m something like Ian Kinsler, with a little bit more speed.

ZL: What are your plans for draft night?

SK: I’m just going to have some friends and family over.  We’ll be watching on TV with everyone else, waiting to see what happens.


Draft Prospect Q&A: Braxton Davidson

MLBTR is re-launching its Draft Prospect Q&A series this season in order to give our readers a look at some of the top names on the board in this year’s draft. MLBTR will be chatting with some of the draft’s most well-regarded prospects over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for the 2014 draft on June 5-7.

In a draft that’s light on impact college bats, many clubs will be looking toward the high school ranks in search of adding some thump to their lineup down the road, and first baseman/outfielder Braxton Davidson of T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, N.C., figures to be one of the top prep bats off the board in the 2014 draft.

Braxton Davidson

The 6’3″, 215-pound Davidson boasts a strong left-handed swing and the ability to drive the ball to all fields, per scouting reports. Both Baseball America and MLB.com rank him 36th among draft prospects, while ESPN’s Keith Law is even more bullish, pegging him as the No. 16 prospect in the 2014 draft class.

Davidson’s pop drew quite a bit of attention at last June’s Tournament of the Stars, as noted by both BA and MLB.com in their scouting reports. He set a tournament record with three homers in four games, including one that traveled an estimated 500 feet. BA notes that improvements in his hit tool this season may have that tool ahead of his power in game action, and Law notes that he has “no wasted motion” in his swing when he’s at his best.

Davidson was kind enough to take some time out of a very busy schedule for a phone interview with me and discuss improvements to his game over the past year, his defensive preferences and his close relationship with a current big leaguer…

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Draft Prospect Q&A: Aaron Nola

MLBTR is re-launching its Draft Prospect Q&A series this season in order to give our readers a look at some of the top names on the board in this year’s draft. MLBTR will be chatting with some of the draft’s most well-regarded prospects over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for the 2014 draft on June 5-7.

This season, LSU powered their way to the Regional Final round of the NCAA Tournament thanks in large part to the pitching performances of ace Aaron Nola.  While the Tigers were eliminated on Monday night by Houston, the 6’2″, 195 pound right-hander is on the verge of realizing his lifelong dream in Thursday night’s draft.  Nola has probably been baseball’s most dominant pitcher over the last two seasons and appears to be a lock for the top ten.

NCAA Baseball: Baton Rouge Super Regional-Oklahoma at Louisiana State

With a laser-guided 95 mph fastball, a plus curveball, and an ever-improving changeup, Nola pitched to a 1.57 ERA with 8.71 K/9 and 1.29 BB/9 in his sophomore season.  For an encore, he followed that up with a 1.47 ERA, an even stronger 10.37 K/9, and a still stingy 2.09 BB/9 in 2014.  In short, Nola has been absolutely stellar over the last two years for the Tigers and is viewed as one of the most surefire talents in this year’s class.

It’s safe to say that Nola is more familiar with the draft process than 99% of prospects out there.  The righty was picked by the Blue Jays in 2011 and watched his brother Austin, a talented shortstop, get drafted twice before signing with the Marlins, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft.  Reportedly being advised by Joe Longo of Paragon Sports, Nola is ranked No. 6 by MLB.com, No. 7 by Baseball America, and No. 10 by ESPN.com’s Keith Law.  On Tuesday, Nola took time out of his busy schedule to talk with MLBTradeRumors about his impressive body of work and what he’ll bring to the table at the major league level:
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Draft Prospect Q&A: Jacob Gatewood

MLBTR is re-launching its Draft Prospect Q&A series this season in order to give our readers a look at some of the top names on the board in this year’s draft. MLBTR will be chatting with some of the draft’s most well-regarded prospects over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for the 2014 draft on June 5-7.

There are few prospects with more power potential in the 2014 draft than California prep shortstop Jacob Gatewood. The Clovis High School product turned heads last summer when he won the All-Star Game Junior Home Run Derby at Citi Field, and for good measure, he turned around and won the Under Armour All-American Game’s Home Run Derby at Wrigley Field as well a few months later.

Jacob Gatewood

A shortstop by trade, Gatewood stands at 6’5″ and weighs in at 180 pounds, so it’s reasonable to think that more power might be in the offing as he fills out. ESPN’s Keith Law, who ranks Gatewood as the draft’s No. 15 prospect, agrees with that line of thinking, as he gave Gatewood a 55 for his current power (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and graded his future power potential at 65. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who ranked Gatewood 22nd overall, graded his power at 65. Baseball America ranked him 21st overall and said his raw power is “at least 70-grade.”

There have been some concerns about Gatewood’s hit tool, but he’s quelled some of that concern by “quieting a hand hitch and and [making] mechanical adjustments” this spring, according to BA. Gatewood took some time last week to talk with MLBTradeRumors about his future at shortstop, last season’s Home Run Derby triumphs and the advice he received from some of the game’s top players at last year’s All-Star festivities.

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Draft Prospect Q&A: Michael Chavis

MLBTR is re-launching its Draft Prospect Q&A series this season in order to give our readers a look at some of the top names on the board in this year’s draft. MLBTR will be chatting with some of the draft’s most well-regarded prospects over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for the 2014 draft on June 5-7.

Michael Chavis

Scouts see Georgia high school prospect Michael Chavis as someone who can do it all thanks to his well-rounded skill set as well as his versatility.  Chavis spent most of his career at Sprayberry High School at the shortstop position but he also boasts arm strength that can allow him to play anywhere in the infield.  He’s got the speed to play second base or stick at shortstop, and while he has a bit of experience behind the plate and in the outfield, most say his big league future is at third base.  The Clemson commit is ranked No. 21 by MLB.com, No. 26 by Baseball America, and No. 27 by ESPN.com’s Keith Law.

The first-round prospect left high school on a high note, slashing .557/.580/.663 with 13 homers in his senior season.  At the plate, Chavis flashed his plus bat speed as well as his plus raw power, which helped him to win the Perfect Game Home Run Derby over other notable prospects such as Alex Jackson, Braxton Davidson, and Michael Gettys.

The charismatic and confident young man spoke with MLBTradeRumors recently about what position he wants to ultimately play, the prospect of going to Clemson, and more:

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Draft Prospect Q&A: Nick Gordon

MLBTR is re-launching its Draft Prospect Q&A series this season in order to give our readers a look at some of the top names on the board in this year’s draft. MLBTR will be chatting with some of the draft’s most well-regarded prospects over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for the 2014 draft on June 5-7.

Florida’s Nick Gordon is universally regarded as the best shortstop in the 2014 draft and, according to some, is the best position player prospect in the draft.  With a pedigree like his, it’s no surprise.  Gordon is the son of three-time All-Star right-hander Tom “Flash” Gordon and the younger brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon.  While his father made his mark in the game and Dee continues to see his star rise, all signs point to Nick making a terrific legacy of his own in the years to come. image-2

At 6’2″, 170, Gordon exhibits tremendous speed both on defense and around the base paths.  Of course, he also boasts a terrific arm for the shortstop position and, in fact, many believe that he could pursue pitching if he wanted to.  At the plate, the Olympia High School star projects to be an above-average hitter, but his intangibles and makeup have scouts drooling just as much as his physical tools.

In 27 games last season, Gordon, reportedly being advised by Beverly Hills Sports Council, which also represented father Tom “Flash” Gordon and represents brother Dee, posted an absurd slash line of .494/.576/.843 in 99 plate appearances and stole 13 bases.  The youngster has had the attention of college scouts and pro scouts alike for years, but his senior season helped to boost his stock even further.

Gordon, ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the draft by ESPN.com’s Keith Law, No. 5 by MLB.com, and No. 7 by Baseball America, spoke with MLBTradeRumors late last week about the draft process, the possibility of going No. 1 overall, and what he’s learned from watching his father and brother:

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Draft Prospect Q&A: Nick Burdi

MLBTR is re-launching its Draft Prospect Q&A series this season in order to give our readers a look at some of the top names on the board in this year’s draft. MLBTR will be chatting with some of the draft’s most well-regarded prospects over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for the 2014 draft on June 5-7.

Teams looking to draft a future closer with serious velocity will be taking a long look at Louisville pitcher Nick Burdi.  In fact, with a fastball that hits 96-100 mph on the radar gun, Burdi stands as the hardest thrower in college.  To complement the heat, Burdi also boasts a plus slider that can develop into a premium pitch.

NCAA Baseball: Louisville Regional-Miami vs Louisville

You could say that hard throwing runs in the family.  Burdi’s older brother, Drew, was a quarterback at Western Michigan.  His younger brother, Zack, is a promising pitcher in his own right for the Cardinals.  Burdi has shown that he can hold that velocity over two- and three-inning outings, leading some to believe that he could blossom into a starter.  Baseball America has Burdi pegged as the No. 27 prospect in the draft, MLB.com has him ranked at No. 34, and ESPN.com’s Keith Law has him at No. 52.  Burdi spoke with MLBTradeRumors on Friday about his skill set, whether he’d be interested in starting, and more:

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Draft Prospect Q&A: Bradley Zimmer

MLBTR is re-launching its Draft Prospect Q&A series this season in order to give our readers a look at some of the top names on the board in this year’s draft. MLBTR will be chatting with some of the draft’s most well-regarded prospects over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for the 2014 draft on June 5-7.

University of San Francisco center fielder Bradley Zimmer is considered by some to be the best college position player in this year’s draft. The brother of Royals prospect and 2012 No. 5 overall pick, Kyle Zimmer, Bradley is ranked as the fifth-best prospect in this draft class by ESPN’s Keith Law (ESPN Insider subscription required and recommended). Baseball America has Zimmer ranked 14th, and MLB.com currently ranks him No. 10.

Bradley Zimmer

The 6’5″, 205-pound Zimmer put himself on the prospect map with an outstanding sophomore season in 2013 when he slashed .320/.437/.512 with 29 walks with seven home runs against just 31 strikeouts in 58 games.

He’s followed up that breakout campaign with an even more impressive .368/.461/.573 batting line to go along with seven homers, seven triples and 10 doubles. Once again, he’s walking (31 times) almost as often as he strikes out (34), and he’s swiped 21 bases in 32 tries in 2014. Bradley was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk with MLBTR last week:

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Draft Prospect Q&A: Anthony Rendon

As the 2011 Draft draws closer, MLBTR will be introducing you to a handful of the top eligible prospects with a series of Q&As. The series includes four of the top college pitchers in the nation and a top college position player. Here's another position player to watch.

Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon is considered the top college position player in the 2011 draft and he remains a candidate to be the first overall pick this June. Both Baseball America and ESPN.com have reported within the week that it appears Rendon will either go first overall (to the Pirates) or second (to the Mariners) with UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole going to the other team.

Rendon entered the season as the top prospect in the draft after being named Baseball America's Player of the Year in 2010 and the publication's Freshman of the Year in 2009. Ankle and shoulder injuries have slowed Rendon down this year and limited his time at third base, where he is considered an excellent defender. The 20-year-old Houston native shines at the plate as well and has a .350/.552/.552 line with 62 walks so far this season.

I spoke to Rendon earlier today about his injuries, the team he rooted for growing up and the hype surrounding the draft. Here's a transcript of our conversation:

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Draft Prospect Q&A: Danny Hultzen

As the 2011 Draft draws closer, MLBTR will be introducing you to a handful of the top eligible prospects with a series of Q&As. The series started with three of the top college pitchers in the nation and a top college position player. Here's another arm to watch.

Hultzen

Danny Hultzen was the ACC pitcher of the year and a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award last year, but even he is a little surprised by how well the 2011 season is going. The Virginia left-hander has helped lead the Cavaliers to a 36-3 record and the top ranking in the country thanks to his arm and his bat.

Baseball America's Midseason Player of the Year is climbing up draft boards and may be the third-best draft prospect in the country behind Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole. ESPN.com's Keith Law reported last week that the D'Backs, Orioles and Royals are among the teams eyeing Hultzen. Anyone picking much later on can likely forget about him, since he doesn't figure to be available for long.

Earlier today I spoke to the 21-year-old about his team's title hopes, his two-way play and the draft. Here's what he had to say:

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