'10 MLB Draft Preview: Top-5 Position Players

It is never too soon to start thinking about the upcoming MLB Draft. Our MLB Draft Analyst John Anderson continues his preview of the draft by speaking with scouts and coaches around the country to gather scouting reports on the top-five high school and college position player prospects eligible for the draft.

Top-Five College Position Player Prospects

Bryce Harper, C, College of Southern Nevada
6'3 205 R/R
.420/.514/.864 with 8 HR and 27 RBI

Harper has had more hype than any position player prospect in recent years and he is doing his best to live up to it. Graduating from high school early and enrolling in a junior college to be eligible for the 2010 draft, Harper is 17 and should be a senior in high school, yet he is hitting .420, with eight home runs, 27 RBI, a .514 OBP and .864 slugging percentage. He has also caught 27 games and made just one error.

Defense aside, it is Harper's bat that sets him apart form others in the draft. One AL scout said he had never seen player with Harper's bat speed and that every part of his swing was to max out on power. He has quick hands, strong forearms and gets great extension. Scouts were concerned at the end of the 2009 showcase season that Harper was preoccupied with hitting home runs and that he wasn't making adjustments at the plate but an NL scout who recently saw him said he is pleased with the adjustments Harper is making.

Defensively, Harper has a strong arm and has been clocked pitching in the mid 90s. He has played well behind the plate this year and has shown progress defensively. However, given the strength of his bat, scouts are already discussing moving him to third or right field, as he has more than enough arm to play either position and playing those positions would save him the wear and tear behind the plate.

On talent alone Harper should be a lock top-five pick; however, given the fact that Scott Boras is expected to be his advisor there are some that think he could slide in the draft due to signability questions.

Bryce Brentz, OF, Middle Tennessee State University
6'0 185 R/R
.350 7 HR 15 RBi .667 SLG 442 OBP

Brentz is one of the top bats in this class. He is a solid hit-and-power bat with quick wrists, a compact swing, short path to ball and great extension. Brentz shows power to all fields and has especially impressive power to left field. The ball jumps off his bat with good loft. Scouts still believe he needs to understand the strike zone better but like the progress he has made this year.

Brentz is strong and lean with an athletic build and will probably add 10-15 pounds in the future. He is athletic in the field and has a strong arm. Brentz has been clocked at 90 MPH from the mound and was used as a pitcher last year, but MTSU coach Steve Peterson has not used Brentz as a pitcher this year and plans to use him exclusively in the outfield. The question for scouts is if he can play centerfield and so far he has looked solid at that position. His recognition of the bat and path to the ball are improving and he clearly has the arm to play the position.

Coming from a smaller conference school there is always a question of strength of competition, however, he played well with Team USA last summer and he is being closely watched this year. There have also been some questions about Brentz attitude but scouts have liked his attitude this year and Coach Peterson has said he is "just a hard working student athlete with a burning desire to play in the bigs and will do anything to reach that goal."

Brentz's bat should have him as a top-15 pick and if he shows he can play centerfield, he could move toward the top-10.

Austin Wates, OF/1B, Virginia Tech
6'0 180 R/R
.444 2 HR 17 RBI .708 SLG .535 OBP

Wates is one of, if not the top, athlete in this year's draft and this will be a huge advantage over most position players who are drafted and signed this year, as he will be the best athlete on the field and has the ability to play all three outfield positions. In addition, Virginia Tech coach Peter Hughes says, "because he is such a freak of nature athletically he makes adjustments much quicker than most players" which is critical for the development of a prospect.

Wates has a nimble frame which is projectable and loose hands and wrists that should allow him to spray the ball to all fields. One AL scout said that as Wates matures he will develop decent power and the scout loves Wates' line-drive approach. He has above-average speed, effortlessly tracks down the ball and has enough of an arm to play center in the bigs.

An NL scout said he has a great work ethic and coach Hughes says his "character is off the charts and any major league team should want him as the face of their organization."

Zack Cox, 3B, University of Arkansas
6'0 215 L/R
.414 3 HR 19 RBI

Cox, a draft-eligible sophomore, is an aggressive left-handed hitter with power projection and most scouts feel it is a given he will hit for average. He has huge power to all fields and an AL scout told me he gets his power from strong forearms and has classic hitter's hands. Scouts love his work ethic and that he is a student of hitting. Arkansas hitting coach Todd Butler says, "he is always looking to improve at the plate and we have had to shut down the batter cage because he hits so much we are afraid he will hurt his hands."

Scouts are watching him this season to see if he can stay at third base and like his progress. Coach Butler said Cox worked hard on his defense at third during the last summer at the Cape Cod League and it is paying off. He has the arm to play third as he pitched last season for the Razorbacks and was clocked in the low 90s. He also is athletic enough to play second and an AL scout said that may be his best position because of his left-handed bat. Wherever he ends up in the field, his bat should get him drafted in the 15-25 range in the first round.

Levon Washington, OF, Chipola JC (FL)
6'0 170 L/R
.310 3 HR 10 RBI .507 SLG

Washington was drafted in Round 1 of the 2009 Draft by the Devil Rays and, with an average group of position players in college and high school, he should be a first round pick again.

His best tool is his speed having been timed from home to first in 4.05 seconds and there are stories of faster times. Scouts think he will hit for average and though his power is below average, he has shown the ability to hit the ball to all fields and with his speed he can leg out hits and get extra bases.

Washington has good bat speed, quick wrists and solid plate coverage, but an AL scout says he needs to improve his plate discipline. He is recovering from off-season labrum surgery but scouts think that with a full recovery his arm will be adequate for centerfield. He has difficulty with reads in center, but his speed can make up for any false step. Washington doesn't yet have a great feel for the game but an NL scout says that with his athleticism he just needs playing time and he should develop in to a solid leadoff hitter and centerfielder in the pros.

Given the lack of solid position players in the draft, Washington should go in the first round again; however, it is important to note that his advisor last year was Scott Boras and the speculation is that Boras will advise him again. It will be interesting to see the impact of the Boras factor, especially given that he already didn't sign after being selected in the first round last season.

Top-Five High School Position Prospects

Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard-Westlake School (CA)
6'4 215 R/R

Wilson's calling card is power. Some scouts say he is a plus, plus power bat and he has a powerful arm. An NL scout says he has light-tower power and a right field arm.

Wilson is tall and powerfully built with large hands, forearms, and he has great wrists. Though an average runner, Wilson is very athletic and most scouts believe he will have no problem playing right field in pro ball.

Scouts want to see him improve his pitch recognition and overall approach at the plate. One AL scout said he has seen marked improvement on his approach and Wilson is doing a great job keeping his hands back at the plate allowing him time to read the pitch. Baseball executives are excited to see him get more at-bats this season and are confident that he will become a prototypical corner outfielder with a middle of the order bat at the big league level.

If his tools and projection weren't enough, Wilson has an incredible work ethic and the character to maximize his tools. He is always looking for ways to improve and one scout said he devours and applies information and advice when given. He is extremely coachable and a leader of his team.

What excites scouts the most about Wilson is that he has played very little baseball compared to others in the draft and they think he could have the highest ceiling of any prospect. Harvard Westlake coach Matt LaCour says the academic demands at Harvard keep Wilson from completely focusing on baseball and he believes that once he can focus totally on baseball he will progress very quickly.

Wilson is a Stanford signee and his parents are Harvard and Stanford grads so he will not be an easy sign for the drafting team. LaCour says he is ready for pro ball but teams need to know that he intends to get a college education.

Josh Sale, OF, Bishop Blanchet School (WA)
6'0 205 L/R

Sale is another plus, plus power bat and he has left-handed power that can't be taught.

Sale has a low center of gravity with wide hips, a barrel chest and very strong forearms, hands and wrists. Scouts love how he throws the bat through the zone, gets his arms extended and drives through the ball. He is very aggressive at the plate yet maintains a mature plate discipline. Sale has pure power to right and center fields and towards the end of last summer scouts liked how he was driving the ball to left.

Though built with all muscle, Sale is athletic and runs a bit better than average. He does have a strong arm and an AL scout feels he will have no problem playing right field in the pros. Though his bat speed will allow him to adjust when fooled, scouts want to see Sale improve his pitch recognition this season.

Bishop Blanchet coach George Monica said the Sale is as physically gifted as any prospect he has seen in the Seattle area and "he is consumed with being a great player, from studying hitting to working out and watching his diet."

Though Sale is a Gonzaga commit, a strong spring by Sale could force a team in the top-10 to take a long look at him. However, most scouts believe that given the college and prep arms in this draft, he will probably come off the board in the top 15-20 picks.

Kris Bryant, 3B, Bonanza High School (NV)
6'5 205 R/R

Bryant continues the theme of high school bats with power as he is a physical presence with plus, plus raw right-handed power. There may be a question as to whether he will play first, third or the outfield, but it is his bat that has scouts' attention.

Bryant has great plate discipline and patience and though he is often pitched around during his high school season, his father, a former Red Sox minor leaguer and his hitting coach, has impressed upon him the value of a walk and he rarely goes out of the strike zone.

Bryant has shown a strong arm and good range at third and he has even pitched when needed. He is athletic with average speed and should have no problem being a corner infielder in the bigs.

Bryant is another potential first round prospect who has committed to the University of San Diego, but scouts would be shocked if he wasn't playing in the minor leagues later this summer.

Justin O'Connor, SS, Cowan High School (IN)
6'1 190 R/R

O'Connor is one of the more intriguing prep positional prospects as some feel he is possibly a three-position player, choosing among shortstop, pitcher and possibly catcher. Could he be this year's Casey Kelly?

The Arkansas commit has the tools to be a plus shortstop with the glove and the bat. He has one of the best arms in this draft and scouts believe he has the athleticism to stay at short. O'Connor has great instincts in the field and at the plate. O'Connor has a short compact swing and scouts feel he will continue to develop power, keeping in mind that he led the state of Indiana in home runs with 19 in 2009.

Though he has been clocked at 99 MPH off the mound, most scouts believe he will stay at short and be a middle of the lineup hitter; however, Cowan coach Camden Parkhurst says he not sure if he will pitch or play short at the next level as O'Connor loves doing both.

Parkhurst did say he is a "born leader, mature beyond his years and will succeed at whatever position he ultimately chooses."

Marcus Littlewood, SS, Pine View HS (UT)
6'3 190 B/R

An AL scout sums up Littlewood best when he says "he just moves like a baseball player" and another believes he'll make a career out of "doing the little things like playing defense, making contact and base-running."

Littlewood has a solid package of tools and physically projects well to the big leagues. He is tall and lean with great athletic actions and has consistent mechanics from both sides of the plate, getting great lift from the left side of the plate. He centers the ball well from both sides and right now is a solid gap-to gap hitter but scouts think as he matures he will develop 10-15 home run power.

Though his size may ultimately move him to third, many scouts think Littlewood can stick at short. He is smooth in the field with fluid motion and he uses great body control and footwork to handle short. His arm is average but he has a very quick release to first.

One NL scout said that with the combination of his body type, his actions, his instincts and the way he carries himself, he will develop into a very good major league player.

Pine View coach Randy Wilstead, a former pro ball player, says what will set Marcus apart is his "passion for the game and the fact that he is mature beyond his years which will let him handle being away from home for the first time and the tough times of minor league ball."

Littlewood is another University of San Diego signee, along with two other elite high school shortstop prospects, and is ready for the big leagues in the field but it will be his bat that determines when he is drafted in the first round.

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