[Disclaimer: I am not a professional scout, just a rabid baseball fan who likes to watch as many games as possible, at whatever level, and who is always on the lookout for potential future stars. The reports here are strictly one person's opinion, based solely on empirical (as opposed to statistical) data, often gathered from an extremely limited sample (possibly as little as a single game). These are not endorsements or recommendations for or against any particular player--that's the job of scouts. My intent here is simply to point out some players who stood out in my mind based on what I saw and to introduce them to you, the reader, so that you (and I, for that matter) might remember their names further on down the road if and when they appear on the prospect scene. Also, I sometimes make comparisons between the players I see and current or former major leaguers. This generally refers to physical appearance, mannerisms, "type" of player, etc., and is not meant to project future performance; in other words, I am simply telling you who someone reminds me of, nothing more. Finally, if you're looking for some good, cheap entertainment, I highly recommend getting out to your local college or high school and supporting their baseball team. You can spend a couple bucks to sit in the sun watching a game without salary disputes, work stoppages, etc. What more could you ask for?]
This weekend I took in a couple games at my alma mater, the University of San Diego, against the University of Michigan. Although there aren’t any real stars in the making on either team, some of these players could get drafted either now or in the future. This time around I’ll focus on the Michigan players (I’ll save the USD guys for later in the season, after I’ve had a chance to see them a few more times). The Wolverines don’t have any great junior prospects entering the draft, but there are a few seniors who could get a look, as well as the son of a former major league star and some projectable freshman pitchers.
First, the seniors who might go in the draft…
Brian Bush CF 6-1 180 lbs, B-R, T-R
Bush, Michigan’s leadoff hitter, is very fast and covers a lot of ground in center field. His arm is decent, but not great. He made several spectacular catches in the two games I saw, moving well to his left and right, and making an Edmonds-esque over the shoulder catch going toward the wall on what looked to be a sure extra base hit. He did muff one ball on a line drive single back up the middle when he appeared to take his eye off the ball in anticipation of where to throw it before it actually reached his glove, which allowed a baserunner to score. The righthanded hitter displayed excellent bunting ability and surprising power (although the homer he hit was over the left field fence, which at Cunningham Stadium lies a mere 309 feet from home plate). Bush looks to have pretty good all-around tools, and his speed might get him enough attention to be a late round draft choice.
Mike Cervenak 3B 6-0 185 lbs, B-R, T-R
Cervenak (“Isn’t that the robot from MST 3000?” my wife asks) bats second and is a Jeff Cirillo/Tim Naehring-type hitter who sprays line drives to all fields and has power to the gaps. The first day I saw him he lined rockets down the third base line his first three times up, two of them going for doubles; the second day he spread the ball around a bit more. Defensively he has good reactions, soft hands, and a very strong and accurate arm. I saw Cervenak one other time, in the Alaskan Summer League, and though I can’t find my notes from that particular game, I do recall being impressed by him then, as well.
Jason Alcaraz RF 6-0 198 lbs, B-L, T-L
Third place hitter Alcaraz has a classic left-handed stroke that generates line drives and occasional power. When he doesn’t overswing he’s quick through the hitting zone. At the plate he reminds me a little of Rusty Greer or Ryan Klesko. In the field he was inconsistent–he made a few outstanding diving catches, but at least one of those came on a ball that should have been a routine play had he gotten a better read. In fairness, there was a “high” sky that day and several routine popups were misplayed, so perhaps this was not indicative of his true ability. Anyway, his bat looks strong enough to me to at least warrant consideration in June.
Next, the son of a former major league star…
David Parrish C 6-3 210 lbs, B-R, T-R
The long, lanky frame; the way he hangs over the plate when he’s batting; and the number 13 on his back all led me to believe this was the son of former Detroit Tiger catcher Lance Parrish. A subsequent trip to the University of Michigan web site confirmed my suspicions. He’s a sophomore now, and though he bats cleanup for this team, he didn’t impress me too much. He has a long swing and doesn’t generate the kind of power one would expect from a guy his size. He appeared to be swinging mostly with his arms (a la Dan Wilson when he first came up), and if he learns to use the lower half of his body, Parrish could develop some power. Defensively he did well at blocking pitches in the dirt but his arm wasn’t as strong as I’d expected it would be. He’s still young, and he’s got a good slugger’s body and great bloodlines, so it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see him generate some interest among pro teams this time next year.
Finally, the freshman pitchers…
Bobby Korecky 5-11 165 lbs, B-R, T-R
Korecky is short for a right-hander but he throws hard and has a good, slow curve, and manager Geoff Zahn didn’t hesitate to bring him into the game with a 3-run lead and two runners on base in the 7th inning, which is a bit unusual for a freshman. He worked 2 2/3 innings, allowing a hit and two walks, while striking out four and generally leaving the USD hitters confused. He’ll always have the size thing to contend with but he sure looked good to me.
Phil Lobert 6-5 225 lbs, B-R, T-R
Lobert was hit hard the day I saw him, and I’m not sure why. He appeared to be throwing hard and he had a knee-buckling curve — reminded me a bit of Jack McDowell in terms of body type and delivery. He was also very quick off the mound in fielding grounders. There might not be anything to this kid, but he looked like a pitcher to me. We’ll find out in a couple years, I guess.
Jeff Trzos 6-6 225 lbs, B-L, T-L
Trzos (pronounced “Troce”) is actually the one player I came to see, as Baseball America mentions him in its College Preview issue as the top newcomer in the Big 10 Conference. Drafted in the 26th round of the 1998 draft out of high school, the big lefty reminds me of Andy Pettitte, with a smooth, easy delivery to the plate. His shoulder seemed to fly open every now and then, and although he appeared to have good stuff, he had trouble hitting his spots at times (likely related to the inconsistent mechanics) and was hit surprisingly hard given his velocity and the fact that shadows had just crept across home plate prior to his coming into the game. It looked like his left arm was coming back too far behind his body and hitters, especially right handers, were able to pick up his pitches too easily. It’s also worth mentioning that he didn’t make his first appearance until his team was trailing, 17-7, going into the 7th inning — not exactly a pressure situation. My guess is they want to bring him along slowly.
Well, that does it for this edition of Draft Watch 1999. This is the only time I’ll get to see Michigan this season, so if anyone else can provide updates during the season, I’d love to hear from you. Next time I’ll take a look at infielder Ryan Owens and outfielder Spencer Oborn from Cal State Fullerton. Until then, happy scouting!