Thursday, July 12, 2012

2012 baseball recruiting, part 2

We continue the series profiling the incoming freshman baseball class with a name that's familiar even to casual fans of the team.....

Nathan Kirby - LHP
James River HS (VA)
Undrafted - ineligible

There hasn't been this much hype around a UVA pitching prospect since Branden Kline, some three years ago.  Give Brian O'Connor credit: he not only knows how to find pitching aces, he knows how to find pitching aces with what MLB scouts call "signability issues" and what UVA fans call "keep your goddam hands off our prospects thank you very much."

As a left-hander, though, Kirby will probably draw his comparisons to Danny Hultzen.  That's immediately unfair, as Hultzen is the best ballplayer to ever suit up in Charlottesville, but Kirby was projected to go as high as the first round of the draft; he's not gonna be able to avoid expectations.  Despite that, Kirby was dead set on going to college; he went so far as to refuse to submit to the MLB drug testing and medical examination requirements, thus making him not only unsignable, but ineligible.

Kirby brings a fastball that sits 90-91 mph and can touch 93; you'd expect that a college strength and conditioning program will bring that heat up to a consistent 93 by the time he's a junior.  He's got a plus curve and is developing a change-up; this latter pitch will be the difference between a good pitcher that can turn in six solid innings, and a great one that makes you giggle like a schoolgirl as a parade of helpless souls trudges back to the dugout.  Once Hultzen had developed that change piece and really learned to command it, he liked to pitch exclusively fastball-curve the first time through the batting order and then unleash the changeup the second time through.  It made fools out of people.  Expect similar tactics from Kirby.  He told the Times-Dispatch that he "can't wait to be at the bottom of the food chain again," a high schooler's way of saying he's looking forward to honing his skills under the tutelage of college coaches; if things go as they should, though, he'll be the apex predator in no time.

Joe McCarthy - OF
Scranton HS (PA)

Joe McCarthy is not the first baseball man to share his name with an infamous senator, which makes him this year's winner of the Hard To Google Award.  Haven't had this much trouble looking up a player since we had a player in the 2010 class named David Mixon (who never made it to UVA); there happened to be a minor-leaguer of the same name, and Mixon attended a high school called Prairie, which was totally unhelpful.

Let's hope McCarthy doesn't end up the same way; this is a guy with unholy athleticism.  Standing 6'3" and 230 pounds, McCarthy was a power forward in basketball, a running back and quarterback in football, and a .500 hitter in baseball.  This kid was practically Scranton's entire athletic program.  Two years ago, as a sophomore in hoops season, he was an "unassuming role player" who came into the starting lineup cold and scored 10 and blocked three shots in a district tournament game.

But McCarthy isn't coming to play for Tony Bennett.  Later that sophomore year, when baseball season rolled around, McCarthy batted over .600.  He's also a standout pitcher, with a 1.65 ERA his senior year, although he's coming to UVA to hit.  He can certainly do that: McCarthy has always hit for an outstanding average, and has good power in his swing.  He probably won't crack the lineup immediately, as there is some established talent ahead of him in the outfield, but as a left-handed bat it wouldn't surprise me to see him get some pinch-hitting chances early on.  Not a stretch at all to envision him growing into a role as the season wears on, similar to how Brandon Cogswell did, and has "starter" written into his future at some point.

Trey Oest - RHP
Durant HS (FL)

I have to root just a little harder for Trey Oest; his granddad played a short time for the Tigers back in 1960, and Oest plays his summer ball for a team run by Detroit fan favorite Chet Lemon.  I'm a sucker for trivia like that.  And Chet Lemon was awesome.

Oest is a righty pitcher with good size, standing 6'3", and he throws a fastball that's improved from the high 80s to topping itself out in the low 90s.  Perfect Game's scouting report from last year states: "Upper 80's fastball, topped at 89 mph, mostly straight. Good bite and spin on 12/6 curveball. Good command from the windup, inconsistent release point from the stretch. Has shown a workable change up in the past."  The guy had offers from the big instate schools (Miami and UF both offered) so to pull a player out of the state of Florida with that pedigree is an impressive coup.

With Oest, you get the impression of a pitcher that needs refining before he's a candidate to crack the rotation, but has a chance to contribute right away from the pen.  Consider Whit Mayberry, who got spot chances to start during his first two years but made most of his appearances in relief before moving full-time to the rotation as a junior.  I can see a similar path for Oest, who doesn't dominate games the way, say, Nate Kirby does, but does have excellent control (only nine walks in 44 innings, against 52 strikeouts, as a senior.)

George Ragsdale - SS
North Port HS (FL)

Gotta commend BOC for his work in the state of Florida this year.  We've already profiled the quality potential of Trey Oest and Robbie Coman, but the prize of the state for UVA's class is infielder George Ragsdale.  Ragsdale is the only UVA commit to make Rawlings' first-team all-Florida, a list which is heavily populated by FSU, Miami, and UF commits.

It so happens Ragsdale is also a teammate of Oest's on Chet Lemon's Juice - yes, that's the name of the summer team.  He's a smooth, compact-swinging hitter (and is one of the rare baseball prospects with a YouTube video, even if it's only 30 seconds and only shows a couple swings) who is a little skinny but oozes potential that should be realized when he grows into his frame.  He's listed as a shortstop because it's either that or center field for high school's best position players, but the scouting reports I've read all project him as a third baseman.  That puts him squarely in the mix for playing time next year; with Stephen Bruno off to the pros, third base is up in the air.  Colin Harrington could move there, as could Kenny Towns or Nick Howard; Howard might pitch, though, and Harrington could stay in right field, and who knows where Reed Gragnani will end get the picture.  Ragsdale will be one of the players to watch in this year's Orange and Blue World Series in the fall, as a strong showing could move him closer to the front of the line for third base duties.

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