Friday, July 19, 2013

2013 baseball recruiting class, part 1

I guess I usually do this closer to baseball season when the thought is still fresh in everyone's mind, but I didn't.  So we'll do it now.  It's our annual series in getting acquainted with the prospects that will grace UVA's roster as freshmen next season.  "Acquainted" is not an accidental choice of words; this can be an awfully imprecise exercise.  Probably the worst prediction I've ever made in five years of writing this blog is that Brandon Waddell would be "probably a future LOOGY or one-inning specialist."  That's about as far from "Friday starter" as it gets.  Sometimes I don't include everyone, because lists found on the Internet aren't up to the level of the comprehensive coverage of football recruiting, and sometimes guys leave unexpectedly before the season or the semester begin.  It's the sort of imprecision that every year makes me strongly consider not doing this, and every year deciding that I at least want to have it as a reference for when the season begins in seven or eight months.  On the plus side, the signing deadline is earlier than it was, so we don't have to stretch to August to find out if our signees are skipping school.

The class is a little smaller this year, which is unsurprising because of the small number of players lost to graduation/the draft.  BOC knows how to manage a roster.  Last year I had to make this a three-parter, but we're back to two this year and the entries are shorter than usual as well.

Tyler Allen - OF
Powhatan HS (VA)

The road to playing time next year for a freshman outfielder is nigh-impossible, so Tyler Allen is a name that'll have to be stashed in the long-term memory banks.  He's the only outfielder in the class, which is not too surprising; we have at least five legitimate candidates for playing time and even if Mike Papi moves to first base, the rest of the field is crowded with ouststanding hitters.  It'd be a huge surprise to see him in the lineup in 2014.

That said, though, Allen is a good all-around outfield prospect.  I wouldn't go so far as to call him "five-tool" because that carries some connotations of sky-high expectations, but Allen can hit, run, field, and throw, all with the skills to do so competitively in college.  He's fairly tall with good speed and a left-handed bat, and he could probably at least compete for time in center field when it's his turn.  Left field otherwise.  Like most college prospects, he's a .400 hitter, and he was player of the year in his district.  About half the class made a Rawlings all-region first team; Allen was one who did.  He's got great timing, too; in a 15-3 win this season, Allen hit two grand slams.  Nice display of power for his future coach; Brian O'Connor was in the stands for that one.

Allen will see the field sparingly, if at all, in 2014.  You'd expect that Brandon Downes and Derek Fisher will leave after next year, though, which opens the door.  Both left and center field will be open for competition in 2015, which is when Allen's time will come.

Alec Bettinger - RHP
CD Hylton HS (VA)

Bettinger is a summer-ball teammate of UVA's best-known prospect in this class, Connor Jones.  He's got a fastball that tops out around 90 and a good breaking ball.  Different coaches of his seem to have different ideas as to the effectiveness of his off-speed stuff and which is his better pitch and so on, so they sound like something that'll need honing before they're college-ready.  If Bettinger is eventually destined for the rotation, a stop in the bullpen on the way seems highly likely.  One possible obstacle for him will be his size; other than Whit Mayberry there aren't any heavily-used righties on UVA's staff shorter than 6'3; Bettinger stands just 6'0".  Lefties get more of a pass than righties on height and Bettinger will have to work hard to separate from the pack.

Adam Bleday - LHP
Titusville Area HS (PA)

Bleday is an interesting prospect; he's not big or super-athletic and as a pitcher, he's not by any means a hard thrower.  But he's a very good hitter (.429 batting average) who played center field as well as pitched for his high school team, and as a pitcher, his senior season saw him finish with an 0.18 ERA.  That means in the 38 innings he pitched, only one earned run crossed the plate.  He struck out 72 against only 12 walks.  In his junior year, he pitched a full 9 innings in one game (which qualifies as extra innings in high school) and struck out 23(!!) hitters.

Stuff-wise, he's sort of a typical lefty; fastball in the mid-80s at best, but with obviously excellent command and two other pitches that work well for him.  He's also small, even for a lefty.  With three good pitches, Bleday could get at least a look as a starter and might have that in his long-term future.  The competition for the 2014 starting rotation looks as wide open as it's ever been, and the field is stocked with veterans like Whit Mayberry and Artie Lewicki, so if a freshman can crack it, that freshman would have to be very impressive.  Mental makeup means a lot to BOC and Karl Kuhn, and we've got no way of knowing how that will go (which is why I make occasionally awful predictions like the Waddell one) but the fact is that the competition both in the rotation and among bullpen lefties is going to be strong in 2014.  It might be tough for a guy like Bleday to have a major role early, but long-term he should be in the thick of the race.  (Kind of the story of this freshman class, really.)

Tony Butler - INF
Sun Prairie HS (WI)

I wish there were more on Tony Butler, but he's been unfortunately injury-prone in his high school career.  He's had two surgeries already; one on his hand after his sophomore year and one this spring, on his shoulder after suffering a dislocation and torn labrum.  That injury cost him his senior year.

A shame, because he did some gaudy things as a junior.  He batted .521 as a shortstop, had an 0.78 ERA (three ER in 28 IP) as a pitcher, and tossed a no-hitter as well.  At least one publication, during the preseason, called him the best player in Wisconsin, and he played for the best team, too; his team was state champs in both 2012 and 2013.  This year, instead of playing, he coached.

Butler is one of the members of this class to make Rawlings's all-region first teams, and one of two infielders in the class.  The amount of playing time available for infielders will depend partly on what the coaches decide to do with Nick Howard; does he continue to play third base (where he's a little bit of a butcher with the glove) or does he focus on pitching full time?  John LaPrise may have the inside track on the vacated second base job, and we'll also be interested to see what we get out of George Ragsdale.  By virtue of being an infielder, though, and also by virtue of being pretty good, Butler stands to be one of the few freshmen with a solid path to some playing time in 2014.

Ben Carraway - RHP
Creekview HS (GA)

Yes, this is the year for younger brothers of former Hoo pitchers.  Ben's older brother is Andrew, one-time standout starter for UVA and current Seattle Mariners minor leaguer.  Carraway is otherwise somewhat overshadowed in this class; his fastball currently tops out around 88, low for a righty, and beyond that there's precious little information on him.  I would guess just based on that fastball that Carraway would have an uphill climb for innings, but with so little to go on, predictions are even dicier than usual.


For future reference, next week I go offline for three days and then return with the second half of this series and then the first of the preseason ACC football previews.  I feel like it's way too early for that shit but I have two more of them to do now and if I don't get an early start I'll never finish.  Even with just 11 to do (on top of, you know, actually focusing on our own team) they had a way of making August race past at the speed of sound.  The fall roster is out, so tomorrow there will be depth chart discussion as part of the previously-promised big recruiting picture post.

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