05/27/09 11:00 AM ET
Corner-infield hitters in demand
Several prospects offer power and versatility in Draft
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
It usually doesn't have much to do with defensive acumen, though having a good glove -- particularly at third -- doesn't hurt. No, the mold for those who play the corner often starts and ends with the bat. The ideal for first and third basemen is that they can hit, with plenty of power.
Finding guys who can do that and have the agility to stay at third base is always a challenge. Figuring out which of the corner infielders will have power that will translate to the pro game is the key to evaluating the position.
"You always hope to find legitimate power bats at the corners," one NL scout said. "That's often easier said than done and in this class, you'll have to dream more about power potential. In a perfect world, you'll find some real middle-of-the-order potential at first and third."
Ironically, the top player in this group may end up being a center fielder when all is said and done. And while he's put up good power numbers this year, most don't see him as that protypical corner infielder. That being said, Dustin Ackley won't have to wait long to hear his name called and very likely will be the first hitter selected on Draft day.
MLB.com 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.
Here are some of the top names at the corners who could be drafted pretty highly starting on the 9th.
Dustin Ackley, University of North Carolina: Most agree Ackley's the best pure bat in the Draft class, especially among the college set. After that, opinions vary on the Golden Spikes semifinalist. Ackley has added more power this year, with 20 homers through 58 games (to go along with a .399 average), but it's unclear just how much pop he'll have as a pro. As a result, he doesn't fit the aforementioned mold for the position. Combine that with his above-average speed and many teams will move him to center field as a pro, provided his elbow that had Tommy John surgery last year is 100 percent.
Bobby Borchering, Bishop Verot HS, Fla.: Borchering is one of those high schoolers at the hot corner who might not be able to stay there long-term. If he had to move, it'd be across the diamond to first. The good news is that regardless of where he plays, the bat will work just fine. Borchering has ridiculous bat speed from both sides of the plate and should hit for average and power. If Ackley's the first corner guy to go off the board, Borchering could be the first prepster in this group to get selected.
Matt Davidson, Yucaipa HS, Calif.: Davidson has been on radar screens for quite some time, enticing scouts with his outstanding raw power. He hasn't always reached that power in game action and struggled quite a bit as a junior. Davidson worked hard on his conditioning and bounced back this year following a strong showing at the AFLAC game last summer, putting him firmly into the early-rounds picture.
Chris Dominguez, Louisville: If the name sounds familiar, it's because Dominguez was taken as a Draft-eligible sophomore in the fifth round by the Rockies a year ago, but didn't sign. His raw power continues to be intriguing, just as his inconsistency has been puzzling. Dominguez has cut down on his strikeouts at Louisville, but any team that takes him will know there will likely be some swinging and missing to go along with the power coming from the Golden Spikes semifinalist. He's got a strong arm and should be able to stay at third, even if he's never a natural defender overall. Don't be surprised to see him improve his Draft placement by a couple of rounds.
Tommy Mendonca, Fresno State: Left-handed-hitting third baseman are always a hot commodity, so it's a little surprising there hasn't been that much buzz surrounding the Golden Spikes semifinalist and 2008 College World Series Most Outstanding Player. Mendonca can be streaky, but he's got some power -- he's among the nation's leaders in home runs -- and as his College World Series performance attests, he seems to enjoy hitting in big spots. Like Dominguez, Mendonca does strike out a bit, but with a chance to bring power from the left side and good defense at third to the table, don't be surprised if he sneaks up Draft boards late.
Jonathan Meyer, Simi Valley HS, Calif.: Meyer's played all over the place for his high school team -- including on the mound -- but looks like he'll either be a third baseman or a catcher as a pro. He's got a strong arm and good defensive instincts which play better at third than at shortstop, where he plays the most in the infield these days. Meyer may not have the power that fits the prototype, but he's got a solid approach with some bat speed and he's learning to switch-hit. He's not an elite, first-round guy, but his instincts plus his makeup should make it certain he won't have to wait too long.
Rich Poythress, University of Georgia: Another Golden Spikes semifinalist, it's hard not to look at what the big first baseman has done against quality competition in the SEC. He's got one standout tool -- his power -- and will be almost certainly limited to first base as a pro. His power is more strength than bat-speed, so some aren't sure just how much pop he'll show as pitching gets better. However, you're not going to get better amateur competition than what he has faced in that conference. There will certainly be teams who'll look at that and his numbers and think he's more than worthwhile early on.
Kyle Seager, University of North Carolina: The other Tar Heels -- Ackley and RHP Alex White -- get most of the ink, but Seager's not a bad ballplayer in his own right. He played second for the first couple of years in college and switched to third this season. He can handle both positions well defensively. Seager is a smooth hitter who handles the bat well, though he doesn't have the power that scouts usually like to see from a corner guy. His offensive skills do profile better at second, though he could end up having a very nice career as a utility guy at both spots.
Richard Shaffer, Providence Sr. HS, N.C.: Shaffer was creating a lot of early buzz as a high school third baseman with some serious bat speed and power, both now and in the future. Even if he outgrew third and had to move to first, Shaffer had the kind of bat that would play in either spot. But then he got hurt -- a hamate bone injury in his left hand -- forcing him out of action, in a way. He ended up pitching, and up to 93 mph, while letting the hand heal. When he returned to hitting, he didn't have any power to speak of. That's fairly common for people returning from that injury and there are probably still some teams who'd consider taking him based on his past rather than his present.
Ryan Wheeler, Loyola Marymount: One of three Wheelers (not related) hoping to get drafted high, he'll probably be the last one to go. After a solid sophomore season and a fine Cape Cod League campaign, there was hope he might jump up as a left-handed college bat with some pop. He's been OK as a junior and definitely shows some ability with the bat, good plate discipline and some extra-base power. That being said, he's more likely to be a first baseman who gets taken in the second tier of college hitters in this Draft.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.