Time for number five in the installment. Trying to get to as many players as I can before the draft begins on Monday. After the 1st round gets done, I hope to take a look at best available if I have time in anticipation of the Tigers 2nd round pick on Tuesday.
Here we go…
Paul Blackburn, RHP, Heritage HS, Brentwood, CA
Blackburn is a 6’2″ and 180lb right hander that combines athleticism with pitchability that could have him going anywhere from the supplemental to the 4th round. Known for having a quality mix of two, and sometimes three pitches, Blackburn has committed to Arizona State. However, some think he can be persuaded to play pro ball.
Blackburn’s fastball sits in the low 90’s currently, though there is reason to believe there could be more. He repeats his delivery well, and has the chance to add strength to his frame. His curve ball flashes as an above average offering, and his change up shows some promise as well. With potential for three above average pitches, he could be off the board before the Tigers select.
Alex Yarbrough, 2B, Mississippi
Yarbrough is what the Tigers are looking for, an offensive minded 2nd baseman. One of the best hitters in the SEC, Yarbrough shows good gap power from the 2nd base position, using the whole field as a weapon. He displays good hands and patience at the plate, and much like 2011 draftee Dean Green, shows an ability to barrel baseballs consistently on all types of different pitches. Yarbrough should fit nicely into the 2nd spot in a batting order.
Defensively, Yarbrough is no great shakes, but he can handle the duties adequately. His hands are good defensively as well, and he makes good consistent throws. He lacks a little bit of range, because he is neither especially fast or quick, but will make the plays he gets to. Sort of like a 2nd base version of Jhonny Peralta.
Brandon Thomas, OF, Georgia Tech
Thomas is a switch hitting outfielder that plays LF for Georgia Tech. His future however in the big leagues is likely to be in CF for someone. His greatest asset is his speed. Thomas shows above average running ability and quality instincts on the base paths. As a hitter, he flashes good power, and given his frame, some believe that there could be some more coming in the future. From the quick look at video, he seems a little stiff at the dish, and could use his hands a little more, and the bat speed didn’t seem anything special.
Defensively, he reportedly should be able to handle CF, and has average arm strength. If a team believes they can get more out of him offensively, he would be a good pick. He is a good athlete.
Tim Cooney, LHP, Wake Forest
Cooney’s profile is similar to that of another recent 2nd round pick by the Detroit Tigers, Drew Smyly. Cooney is a 6’3″ lefty that is slender, and could add a little to his fastball once he gets into the pros. He typically sits upper 80’s to low 90’s with his 4 seam, and sits in the mid 80’s with a cutter that gets good movement. He also throws an inconsistent curve, and a change that shows promise.
Cooney’s big advantage at one time was command, however, he has lost some this spring. Part of that is that he has seen an uptick in his stuff. I would bet that he returns to having above average command as he gets more used to his increased stuff and fills out his frame. Could be a surprise and a quick mover.
D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Arkansas
You can never count out players from Arkansas when the Tigers are drafting. They seem to gravitate their scouting towards that sector of the country, or just have their most influential guys there. Baxendale is a solidly built righty at 6’2″ and 180lbs, and may have some projection left. His fastball is average from the right side, normally working 89-91. He does a decent job of commanding the pitch and getting it in on right-handed hitters. His best secondary is probably his cutter right now, and even though it is somewhat new, he does get some swing and miss with it.
Baxendale might benefit from cutting down his repertoire if anything. He also has shown a curve, slider, and a change as well. Eliminating a pitch or two might be able to help him sharpen some.
Walker Buehler, RHP, Clay HS, Lexington, Kentucky
Buehler is a power righty from the Bluegrass State, who still has some projection on him. Why? Because his a skinny kid at just 6’2″ and 160 lbs. He has shown at times to have potentially three plus pitches, however, there is a couple of drawbacks as well. One, he is signed to play at Vanderbilt, and those commitments can be pretty rock solid most of the time for Commodores kids. Two, his frame wreaks havoc with his ability to maintain his stamina and stuff. If he doesn’t get much bigger and stronger, he would be relegated to the bullpen.
His repertoire consists of a fastball that reaches the mid 90’s, generated by a quick arm, but at times it can be in the high 80’s depending on the day. He also flashes a power curve ball, and a potentially plus change that shows good arm motion and fade already. Buehler is going to be hit or miss depending largely on his ability to add strength and weight, and maintaining it throughout a season.