Draft Preview: Middle infielders
2009 group has talent but it appears to be unpredictable
There never seem to be enough true shortstops. Every draft, there's a hope more will come to fill up Major League systems everywhere, but it never seems to work out that way.
Last year wasn't too bad at the top of the Draft, with the Beckhams, but it dropped precipitously after that. This year, it's unclear whether it will measure up.
"There are some guys who pound the ball a little who you project at second base," said one scouting director, trying to find a sliver lining. "You need a guy who can run, good hands, good feet and there aren't many of those guys. That's a shame."
It's not likely, then, that too many of the names below will go in the opening round, but with the need organizations have, these are all players who will find interested parties sooner rather than later -- all the more reason to tune in to MLB.com. The site will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11, on MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on June 9, noon on June 10 and 11:30 a.m. on June 11.
Daniel Fields, University of Detroit Jesuit HS, Mich.: Fields is the son of Bruce Fields, now the Indians' Minor League hitting coordinator, so he knows a little something about hitting. He hits from the left side of the plate and he shows good speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball. Like many players in the North, Fields couldn't be seen early, but many teams were traveling to see him late in the spring to get a good evaluation. He won't be the first shortstop taken off the board, but he could be among the first few high school middle infielders to go.
Nick Franklin, Lake Brantley HS, Fla.: Lake Brantley has been a veritable baseball factory and Franklin is the next product coming off the assembly line. He swings the bat well with a little future power potential. He's got wiry strength and decent speed. Defensively, he's solid and should be able to stay at short. He gets the ultimate compliment of being a real "baseball player" from scouts.
Mychael Givens, HB Plant HS, Fla.: A talented two-way player, there are some who like Givens as a pitcher who can touch the upper 90s at times. That arm strength plays very well from short, as you might imagine, and he's got good defensive actions overall. As a hitter, he's not as raw as some high schoolers, though he still has some work to do. He runs well and it looks like he should have some decent power down the line.
Grant Green, University of Southern California: Better late than never. Green came out of the Cape Cod League as perhaps the best hitting prospect in the Class of 2009, but suffered through what most felt was a lackluster performance for much of the season. He was turning it on late, however, and sometimes that last impression is the best one. When he's firing on all cylinders, he's a five-tool player at a premium position and it's still quite possible he'll be drafted as such.
Ryan Jackson, University of Miami: There's no question that Jackson can play shortstop defensively. In fact, especially among the college set, he might be the best defender in the country, a Gold Glover in the waiting. There's always been a question about his bat and his subpar junior season offensively didn't help answer that question. Playing at a big program -- and his defense, of course -- should help his Draft status where his offensive performance didn't.
Jeff Kobernus, California: One of the few true second basemen who could go early, Kobernus stands out as one of the better all-around college bats. He's got great bat speed and control and that should help him hit for some power down the road. He can run a bit and, despite what one might think about second basemen at the amateur level, he's pretty good with the glove. He's not a premium bat who goes super-early, but he's the kind of solid all-around college performer who could get taken off the board by the second round.
DJ LeMahieu, LSU: LeMahieu was probably more intriguing when he was a shortstop at a major college program, but he got moved over to second midway through the season and not everyone is convinced he can stay there -- meaning a move to third or a corner outfield spot may be in his future. He's had a decent year offensively, but not overwhelming. Throw in the fact he's a Draft-eligible sophomore and figuring out when he goes in the Draft is a very difficult question to answer.
Jiovani Mier, Bonita HS, Calif.: The aforementioned scout wasn't including Mier in his opinion of the position. Mier is a high school shortstop who will definitely be able to stay there. He's got a great feel for defense, with a good arm and outstanding instincts. He might be better defensively than with the bat right now, but there's plenty to like about his swing as well. He could very well be the first prep middle infielder taken off the board.
Chris Owings, Gilbert HS, SC: Unlike Mier, many feel Owings will best be suited by moving to the other side of second base, where he could be a decent offensive-minded second baseman who hits for average. He runs pretty well and has some ability to swing the bat. His tools don't jump out at you, but he was playing well down the stretch of his season, just in time to help his Draft stock in the remaining weeks.
David Renfroe, South Panola HS, Miss.: It's unclear just where Renfroe's future lies on a baseball field. He plays shortstop and pitches in high school, and some may see him as a pitcher at the next level. Others might see him slide over to third defensively, and one scout said that with his agility and arm strength, he could see him behind the plate, a la Russell Martin. He's got good tools across the board offensively and his bat will play anywhere. He's a great athlete who quarterbacked one of the top high school football teams in the country, so watching him at the next level could be a lot of fun.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.