Rendon tops corner infielders in Draft
Rice third baseman head and shoulders over fair group of talent
Corner infielders are supposed to fit a certain mold. To play first or third base, a certain amount of power and run production is, if not expected, highly encouraged.
So when teams draft players for the corners, the hope is they are finding the next middle-of-the-order bopper. This year's Draft class, however, does not have a large number of impact hitters at any position. And while some players might end up shifting to a corner spot in the future, the group of those already there isn't particularly deep.
It's not completely barren, though, and what there is at first and third base comes from the college ranks. The first is Anthony Rendon, who when healthy is the best hitter in the class and a legitimate candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick. There is some drop-off after him, at least in terms of when players might get taken, but there are a few advanced hitters who teams will be considering in the first round and the compensation round.
To see when the corner infielders go, tune into live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, beginning with a one-hour preview show on Monday, June 6, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Days 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's a closer look at the top corner infielders, with their rank among the Draft Top 50 prospects in parentheses.
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice (2)
When healthy, Rendon has four plus tools. He can hit for average, has plenty of power and has potential Gold Glove abilities. The only thing that's below average is his speed, but he runs better than people give him credit for. With all of the positives, however, some question marks have arisen. With the switch to new bats in the NCAA, Rendon's power numbers have dwindled, though most believe he'll be fine in that regard. The larger issue has been his health. Rendon has had two serious ankle injuries that kept him from playing summer ball the past two years and he was largely limited to designated-hitter duties this spring because a shoulder problem, the severity of which is unknown. If questions about his shoulder can be answered and people are confident he can stay at third, it's difficult to imagine Rendon remaining available past the first picks.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Utah (35)
Part of a baseball family -- his father Chris manages the Tigers' Double-A club in Erie and his brother Kevin is a high school prospect -- Cron might be one of the better college hitters. Kind of a right-handed version of Sean Casey with more power, Cron can flat-out hit and has power to all fields. While he doesn't have great bat speed, he has a good feel and excellent pitch recognition at the plate. He's caught and played first, which will most certainly be his defensive home at the next level. That's just fine because he should hit more than enough for the position.
Jason Esposito, 3B, Vanderbilt (41)
Esposito has been on radars for a while, having been drafted by the Royals in the seventh round in 2008. Instead of signing, he went on to play shortstop at one of the better programs in the country. While he's played up the middle as a Commodore, most think he'll have to move over to third as a pro as he's filled out and developed a thicker lower half that's affected his range and his speed. It might have also had an effect on his performance at the plate, which has been a bit up and down. He can center up on the ball on occasion, but there is some concern about his ability to hit consistently. There is some power potential, so a team that believes he can reach that power will take a look at him, especially because he has the chance to be a solid third baseman with a plus arm.
Cory Spangenberg, 3B, Indian River State College (44)
Spangenberg has seen his name on the rise in the junior-college ranks all spring as scouts have raved about his ability with the bat. The left-handed hitter uses wood bats in games. There's a question as to how much power he'll have and that will ultimately determine whether he's an everyday, No. 3-type hitter or more of a fringe everyday or platoon type. His arm is average and would be OK at third, though his footwork might mean he'd be better suited in left field and his power may not be enough for the hot corner. That being said, hot college bats always move up the charts every Draft and this year's class is light on college hitters, all of which should work in Spangenberg's favor.
Ricky Oropesa, 3B/1B, USC (47)
Oropesa and his power bat have been on radars since high school, when he was taken by the Red Sox in the 24th round in 2008. He went on to USC, where he's had a fairly inconsistent college career, though lately he's been looking more like the hitter many thought he would be. He's made some adjustments, allowing him to tap into perhaps the best raw power on the West Coast. While he's played third and first, his overall defensive ability will likely limit him to first base or DH as a pro and while he's not a clogger on the basepaths, running isn't expected to be a part of his game. There aren't many in this class with his kind of true power and that should lead to him being selected before long.
Others: Cody Asche, 3B, Nebraska; Kevin Cron, 1B, Mountain Pointe HS, Ariz.; Tyler Goeddel, 3B, Hillsborough HS, Calif.; Travis Harrison, 3B, Tustin HS, Calif.; Kyle Kubitza, 3B, Texas State; Harold Martinez, 3B, Miami (Fla.); Matt Skole, 1B/3B, Georgia Tech; Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Bishop Verot HS, Fla.; Aaron Westlake, 1B, Vanderbilt.