Monday, May 16, 2011

OTF MLB Draft Peek: Robert Stephenson, RHP, and Kolten Wong, 2B

Here a couple of more looks at some prospects that look to go around the 29th slot in the draft (the Giants' pick). As I mentioned before, this is a very deep draft, and I don't think the Giants could go wrong with any pick they make in the first round. Nonetheless, it's always good to look at the possibilities.

Robert Stephenson, RHP, Alhambra (CA) HS

Baseball America in their latest mock draft has the lanky right hander going to the Giants at No. 29. Safe to say, the high school pitcher has a lot of interesting upside.

At 6-foot, 3-inches and 180 pounds, Stephenson is considered one of the top prep pitchers in the country, as he was named to the 2011 All-Rawlings First team and All-Region Team for California. Stephenson made a big splash last summer in the AFLAC All-American games, as he started for the West Team and pitched two shutout innings. He also played in the 2010 Area Codes game and also showcased a solid performance in the contest.

Stephenson has a live arm and some good tools for a pitcher. His stuff has gained raves from scouts, and his body has room to mature, which means good things in terms of his stuff developing at the professional level. His fastball is his plus pitch, but he does have some good secondary pitches, though they obviously could use some work. Matt Grabusky of MLB Draft had this to say about Stephenson's pitches:

"Stephenson has good control of his fastball that is regularly 92-94 and has been clocked as high as 97 this spring.  Both his curve and change have plus potential, but are somewhat inconsistent at this point."

John Klima of Baseball Beginnings also had good things to say about Stephenson's Major League potential in his scouting report. He has graded his fastball and curve ball a four (out of six) and his changeup and control a three (out of five). Klima gave him an OFP rating of 55, which is pretty promising for a prep pitcher who is still early and raw in his development. Much like Grabusky, Klima points out that he's "far from a finished product, both in terms of physical maturity and stuff," but he still projects the live-armed right hander as a potential No. 1-No. 3 starter at the Major League level.

Much like Owens, Stephenson presents a lot of upside and would look to be a good pickup at No. 29. He is currently committed to go to the University of Washington, but it is widely expected that Stephenson would sign if he is drafted in the first round. Personally, I like Henry Owens a bit more from the video I have seen of both pitchers, but if Owens goes earlier (which is possible, as Baseball America has him going to the Braves at No. 28), then Stephenson would be a nice prize nonetheless. He still has the kind of upside that Owens has, though I like Owens more because of his frame (Owens is six-foot, seven-inches tall) and the fact that he is a lefty (Left-handed starters tend to have more value).

With the history of the Giants organization developing pitchers, Stephenson would look to have a bright future with the Giants, albeit one that would take a few years of development in the minors. That being said, there really is no rush to get Stephenson to the Majors, as the rotation is more than set with Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain manning the rotation for at least a couple of more years (at the very least, Lincecum, Bumgarner and Cain, since Sanchez is always in the mix in trade rumors). The Giants organization has the time and resources to invest in a pitcher with as much uspide and potential as Stephenson.

Kolten Wong, 2B, University of Hawaii

Wong is a prospect that is projected to go in the late first round to early supplemental round slot (I have seen him go from the 20-35 range in most mock drafts). He is getting a lot of Christian Colon comparisons in the sense that he is a pretty polished player at the collegiate level and has a chance to be promoted quickly through the minor league system. However, much like Colon, he doesn't have the upside in comparison to other prospects, as he may not be much better than what he currently is.

That shouldn't be a knock on Wong though, as what he currently is as a prospect is very, very good. He is currently batting .365 at Hawaii this year with 6 home runs, 41 RBI and has an OBP of .480, an OPS of 1.019 and an ISO of .174, all impressive numbers for a middle infielder. Furthermore, he has stolen 22 bases on 26 attempts, not necessarily speed demon numbers, but evidence that he can be fast, efficient base stealer at the next level.

Defensively, he is solid overall with good hands, but as Nick J. Faleris of Diamondscape Scouting notes in his scouting report of Wong, his range tops out as "unspectacular, but more than adequate." Wong also has the potential to go behind the plate, which ups his value a little bit as a prospect. Of course, with Buster Posey at the Major League level, and prospects like Hector Sanchez and Tommy Joseph in the minors, there probably isn't much a need for Wong to play behind the backstop.

While Wong has excelled at the collegiate level with a non-traditional college power, his summer league performances have also gained raves. He was the Cap Cod League MVP in 2010, as he hit .341 with 3 home runs, 18 RBI and stole 22 bases and drew 18 walks in 155 plate appearances for the Orleans Firebirds.

Wong's biggest positive seems to be his bat, as scouts really like what they see from him at the plate. He swings a bit hard (which is to be expected since he is a smaller guy at five-foot, nine-inches and a 188 pounds), but he doesn't overcompensate by any means. Furthermore, his approach and tools have earned plenty of positive remarks. Klima had this to say about Wong's hitting in his latest scouting update:

"His hands are his greatest gift and he almost always trusts them. The gunshot sound at contact comes from exceptional fast-twitch muscles through his fingers, hands, wrists and forearms. Wong’s bat stays in the hitting zone for a long time – it gets there early, takes its shoes off and has a drink – and then finishes with an aggressive uppercut. His power is geared to pull and he’s a straight-away hitter. He’ll have gap power, but if you go middle-in, he can take you out of the park. His swing is easy, effortless, powerful and natural."

The middle infield in the Giants system is a bit of a concern. While I still like Nick Noonan as a prospect, there are questions about his ability and upside as a prospect after a down year in Richmond in 2010 (though he certainly has picked it up this year). Charlie Culberson tore it up last year and is the Flying Squirrels' best hitter this year, but he still has to prove that he's more than a "Cal League Wonder" in the Eastern League (his Sally stats weren't all that impressive). And Ehire Adrianza and Brandon Crawford obviously have the gloves to play at the Major League level, but their bats and health are question marks and have kind of stunted their development.

Thus, Wong is a solid prospect that could fill an obvious need in the Giants system. With the amount of high ceiling pitching in this draft, the Giants certainly wouldn't hurt themselves by taking a hurler in the first round. However, Wong seems to have the qualities of a special prospect who could move fast in the Giants system based on his offensive tools and performance in the Cape Cod League and in college. Wong is my favorite when it comes to whom the Giants should pick, but at the same time, I think the Giants are more likely to pass on him if he's available just because the pitching is too enticing to pass up on.

If the Giants pick him though, Giants fans need to keep an eye out on this kid. He could have instant impact the second he breaks into the minors. That's how polished Wong is from what I've seen on video and from what I've read in his scouting reports.


  1. I would be A-OK if the Giants took 3 high ceiling HS pitchers with the first 3 picks. It would re-stock the farm system and like you said, the Giants have time to develop them.

  2. I totally agree. Like I said, I just personally like Wong and what he would bring to the middle infield. However, a lot of these high ceiling pitchers are enticing and I think the Giants would benefit from stocking up their pitching in the system, especially now as a lot of guys who appeared to be starters now seemed to be regulated to bullpen status.

  3. Look up video and scouting reports on Hawtin Buchanan. I want him in the 1S or 2'nd round!

  4. Here's a video on him dominating in high school

    doesn't look like he's playing against the best competition (he gets helped out by a lot of bad swings), but his stuff looks raw and electric. His windup and leg kick remind me of Bronson Arroyo and Roy Oswalt. If the Giants pick him up and he can develop into either of those pitchers it would be a real steal.

    Probably will do a profile on him soon. Not a lot of scouting reports out on him yet, but I'll try to scour what I can.

  5. There's another HS LHP from Kansas that one of the mock drafts had the Giants taking in round 2 or 3 or so. Can't remember his name but both first and last name start with the letter K. He also looks very raw but with a live arm. With cleaned up mechanics he looks like he could have a MLB future.

    I guess the point of my collective comments is that this draft is so deep in high ceiling HS arms teams will be able to find them deep into the draft. Add in a mother lode of college pitching and this definitely seems to be the year to stock up on pitching, which happens to be the Giants biggest organizational need, IMO.

  6. I agree...with Alderson and Barnes gone, and a lot of pitching prospects not turning out as well as predicted (which is usually expected) and Bumgarner up at the Major League level, the Giants organizational pitching depth is a whole lot thinner than it was three-four years ago. I think loading up on arms, might be the best thing to do, not just because the Giants need it, but because pitchers have so much value. At the very least, you want to stock assets, should you need to make a big trade (not saying I would want one, but just saying).

    This is the kind of draft where you could load up on pitchers and hold on to a lot of their value in your system over the next few years, which could bring some interesting propositions from teams who are looking to dump good players because of payroll/free agency concerns. Furthermore, it's always nice to have depth, especially considering you never know what direction the Giants are going to take with some of their arms (especially Sanchez). It's good to have backup plans and depth, should the Giants lose somebody in their current rotation in the near future, and this is the kind of depth where you could prepare for such scenarios as well.