Top 50 Prospects: #17 - Benjamin Copeland

The Giants might have been fashionably late to the 2005 MLB draft (in record setting ways), but they still managed to find value at #132 overall. Picking up a center fielder with excellent fielding skills, good speed and developing power is not bad at all.

Date of Birth: 12/17/1983 Position: OF Height: 6'1" Weight: 195 Bats: L Throws: L
Acquired: Drafted in the 4th Round (#132 Overall) of the 2005 Draft
2005 Stats
AZL Giants - R .333 .388 .517 .905 60 16 20 4 2 1 14 5 14 2 0
Salem-Keizer - Short A .306 .364 .512 .876 121 25 37 5 4 4 23 11 25 2 1

Here’s your trivia for the day: In 2005, the Giants set a record for the latest first pick in MLB draft history, with their first selection coming at #132 overall, in the 4th round. That pick was Pitt center fielder Ben Copeland.

Picking Copeland surprised quite a few people, as there was still quite a few people who were holding onto the stereotype that the Giants are a pitching first and only organization when it comes to player development. Before going with outfielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve in 2004, the Giants had made pitchers their first overall picks for the previous five years and 8 of the previous 9. Copeland also left some heads scratching because his toolbox was remarkably similar to the Giants previous 4th round pick, center fielder Clay Timpner.

Surprises aside, the Giants picked up a remarkably good player in the 4th round. Copeland was the #118 prospect in the draft as ranked by Baseball America, and the 5th fastest baserunner. He led the Big East in average, hits, runs, doubles, triples, stolen bases, slugging percentage and total bases, and set Pitt season records in hits, at bats, runs, doubles and triples.

Copeland comes to the Giants with a lot of solid tools, but his biggest is his work ethic. His college coach spent a lot of time praising him for his play and his hustle, and called him very humble. Copeland himself says he loves to play center, and enjoys turning triples into doubles, and doubles into singles. To that end, his speed and quick reads are a big help, and Copeland has a strong arm for a center fielder that lets him make plays. That speed is a good weapon offensively as well, and he puts it to good use on the basepaths after churning out hits, although Copeland only had 4 steals in his first pro campaign. He also has a swing that many predict will grow into a solid power swing.

It’s hard to get a read on Copeland’s adjustment to the pros, as he played only 47 games between the rookie league and short season A ball, but he hit .315 between the two levels with 5 home runs in 181 at bats. He also showed good strike zone recognition, with a .057 Isolated OBP over those two levels. In that sense, he has separated himself from Timpner, whose on base percentage must rise to take advantage of his speed. Copeland, however, hasn’t taken full advantage of his base stealing ability yet, with the aforementioned low stolen bases total. That quibble aside, so far, so good for Copeland.

In 2006, Copeland could find himself in either Low A or High A ball. He has enough polish to go straight to San Jose like Timpner did. Copeland’s going to have quite a bit of competition in the system, though. The Giants have a lot of center field prospects, including Fred Lewis and Timpner ahead of him, other 2005 draftee’s Joey Dyche and Antoan Richardson, and players like Michael Mooney, who were moved out of center field, but could get pushed back. Wherever he goes, Copeland’s goals should be to improve that stolen base total, and continue to develop his power. The Giants are hopeful the left hander can develop into a good power/speed combo to bat third in the order, but even if his power doesn’t come in strong enough for that, he could be an ideal first or second hitter in the order. He must maintain a good on base percentage, though, as even strong defenders with good speed can fall into the utility outfielder role if they can’t get on base enough to take advantage of their speed.

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