Note: Don’t forget about the live chat, Friday at 4:00 PM PST.
I assume most people that read this site are familiar with college summer ball, but for the uninitiated, the Cape Cod Baseball League is contested each summer among ten teams on and around Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The league is filled with many of the best talents in college baseball, including the vast majority of early college picks in the June Rule 4 MLB entry draft. Besides the generally strong level of competition, the Cape also gives scouts a wooden-bat based look at prospects who normally play with metal. The league plays in mostly pitcher friendly parks and offense isn’t easy to come by. I live only about an hour from Cape Cod, so I get a chance to see a good amount of the action. Chris asked me to share some of my observations from the 2011 season, which I’ve done below.
Five Names You Probably Know
Mark Appel / Stanford / RHP: Appel is getting some strong early consideration for the top pick in the draft. The Stanford right-hander played an abbreviated Cape season as he pitched out of the bullpen for the Team USA Collegiate National Team. Appel had impressed me when pitching for Team USA so I was excited to watch him pitch again. I caught him at his best for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox on July 27th. Appel gave up 3 runs in a losing effort, but hit 98 mph and struck 12 batters in 6 IP while walking none. He is a big, athletic kid with a free and easy delivery. With about a billion scouts in attendance (+/- five scouts) Appel showed a tremendous slider that features both strong horizontal and vertical break. He threw strikes in the lower half of the zone with his fastball and his change up also had its moments. Hitters were overmatched all day and Appel racked up swings and misses on all his pitches. Appel had an up and down year overall but more days like this could see him in an Astros uniform in July.
Deven Marrero / Arizona State / SS : Marrero is a premium defensive shortstop who ranges well to both sides. He has a strong-arm that remains accurate even while throwing on the move. Marrero isn’t much more than an average runner straight ahead but you wouldn’t know it from watching him play shortstop. His hands and reactions are excellent and that helps him overcome his less than spectacular foot speed. At the plate Marrero has plus bat speed and a good-looking swing, but a somewhat aggressive approach, a habit of drifting towards the pitcher and a big leg kick will result in plenty of strikeouts as a pro. The Sun Devil won’t have a lot of over the fence power either but his game is hard contact and he should not be confused with a slap hitter. Marrero has some questions to answer about his offensive profile but I’m still comfortable projecting him as an above average hitter for a shortstop. Even with the question marks the qualities of being a shortstop who can hit some will have him off the board early in July.
Victor Roache / Georgia Southern / OF: Roache’s game is about power and bat speed. He has rare amounts of those two qualities and that allows him to launch some majestic home runs. He is still a fairly raw prospect for a college junior but that has both positives and negatives. Roache wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school and he hasn’t gotten much exposure to high quality instruction. So he has perhaps more upside and growth left in his game than you’d expect for someone this age. Roache actually improved (particularly some polish in his swing mechanics) from the time I saw him earlier in the summer to when I attended games later in the season. My biggest concern with Roache is where his body ends up. He’s already a thick 6-1 at 225 lbs with a large lower half. While he’s fairly athletic for that size now, he’s already in an outfield corner and will have to stay on top of his body.
Travis Jankowski / Stony Brook / OF: Jankowski was a lesser known name coming from Stony Brook but he exploded onto the scene and won the Cape MVP. He doesn’t possess real standout tools but he has a quality overall game and could fit as a major league center fielder who hits at the top or bottom of the order. Jankowski does have good speed and athleticism and those skills show up well in the field, too. He’s a max effort guy and plays the game hard. While he’s probably not an impact player as a pro, he is at least a four tool prospect who could still grow into more power. Jankowski could be a nice get for a team picking at the end of the first or in the supplemental round.
Mike Zunino / Florida / C: I saw Zunino in March and a number of other times on television and I remain a big fan but he might be the highest profile prospect whose stock was hurt on the Cape. He showed very little power and lots of strike outs in the CCBL on his way to a disappointing .303/.395/.364 line. He looked tired and worn out, perhaps as a result of his long season for the Gators – including a deep College World Series run. Scouts I talked to were fairly negative about what they saw of Zunino for Yarmouth-Dennis, but he’s still the best of the college catcher crop and should easily be in consideration for a high first-round pick with a strong spring.
Five Names You Might Not Know
Here are some players who stood out to me that you won’t probably see on 1st round mock drafts. I realize that if you’re a draftnik (and that’s a strong possibility if you’re reading this site) you’ve probably heard of some or all of these guys. Well, here’s my observations on them anyway.
Brandon Thomas / Georgia Tech / OF: The Georgia Tech outfielder really stood out for me on a Wareham team I got to see numerous times (It’s the shortest trip for me). Thomas has very good raw tools and athleticism for a college player. He is a switch hitter with a nice looking swing from each side and possesses a quick bat and has above average power. His glove may end up a little short for centerfield given his size, but he’s a quality defender with good instincts and actions in the outfield. Thomas has a mix of tools, athleticism and polish that should make him an early round pick.
James Ramsey / Florida State / OF – Ramsey had a strong college season for the Seminoles in 2011 and built on that with an impressive performance on the Cape. He was drafted in the 22nd round by the Twins following his Junior season but decided to return to school as a Senior this year. There is some skepticism over how Ramsey’s game will play in pro ball. He often drops his back-end and takes an aggressive uppercut swing. While this leads to some long home runs (his six home runs tied him for second in the Cape) it also leads to more than a few strikeouts. The tools and athleticism are solid across the board and Ramsey is a max effort guy who plays the game the right way. He was named Cape League All Star Game MVP after hitting a looooong home run over the bullpens in right field. I also saw Ramsey in March, and while I still have questions about his bat I saw improvements in his ability to shorten up his swing and make adjustments. After a very good Cape campaign Ramsey is poised to be one of the more interesting Senior draftees.
Josh Elander / TCU /C : Elander really caught my eye early in the Cape Season and I wasn’t surprised to see him added to the USMNT roster (He actually replaced Zunino). The Texas Christian backstop is athletic with a well-rounded game. He doesn’t possess an ideal catcher’s body with his thick frame but certainly has a chance to stick there. The feeling is that his tools will play at a number of other positions in any case. Elander has a very disciplined approach at the plate and should hit for a high average with a chance for above average power. If he continues to progress behind the plate he could really move up draft boards this spring.
J.T. Chargois / Rice / 1B-RHP: Chargois played mostly first base for Rice in 2011 but was used as a reliever on the Cape and may have just found a pro future in that role. He showed some of the most impressive raw stuff at the CCBL All Star Game at Fenway Park. There is a good amount of effort in his less than ideal mechanics… but that’s not surprising seeing how little he’s pitched. Chargois threw a lively power sinker that got into the mid 90’s along with a very tough power curveball. With more polish that two pitch mix could be very tempting to teams on draft day.
L.J. Mazzilli / UCONN / 2B: Mazzilli is a player I got to see a lot of this spring for UConn and I’m a big fan. He was overshadowed by teammates and early picks George Springer, Matt Barnes and Nick Ahmed, but Mazzilli is a strong talent in his own right. He has a pretty looking swing with good bat speed and a very mature, advanced approach at the plate. Mazzilli has strong barrel awareness and will hit the ball where its pitched. In the field he has good hands and a strong, accurate arm but lacks the foot speed for shortstop. Power won’t be a big part of his game but he does make plenty of hard contact. Mazzilli has a lot of appeal as a well-rounded second baseman and he could improve his stock considerably with a good junior season.