05/28/10 10:00 AM ET
Breaking down the Draft's corner infielders
2010 class of prospects short on depth, not on potential
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
And that's what scouts look for each year in the First-Year Player Draft: Impact bats with power at first and third. They are in high demand and often in short supply. There isn't much depth in this regard in the Class of 2010, but there are some corner infielders who will generate plenty of interest in the first few rounds. Here are 10 to keep an eye on.
The Draft will be aired live by MLB.com and MLB Network beginning with the first round on June 7, and continuing live on MLB.com on June 8-9.
Kris Bryant, Bonanza HS, Nev.
Bryant has raw power and plenty of it. It's often on display in batting practice and he has a tendency to do well at showcases as a result. A home run streak late this spring certainly helped his stock, but there is concern about his overall hitting ability and whether he'll make consistent enough contact to tap into his considerable strength. He's not a good defender at third base and most believe he'll have to play first base in the future. Even with those questions, someone's liable to take a shot on his raw power.
Nick Castellanos, Archbishop McCarthy HS, Fla.
Castellanos has established himself as perhaps the second-best high school hitter in this class, behind perhaps only Manny Machado from the Miami area. He's played shortstop this year for his high school team, but will slide back to third, his position for most of his amateur career, as a pro. Scouts like his overall athleticism and he's got more than enough skills to handle playing third base well. Most believe he should hit for average, though there's some debate over just how much power he'll grow into. There are enough teams, it seems, who think he'll have plenty, a reason why his name is being mentioned all over the first half of the first round.
Kaleb Cowart, Cook HS, Ga.
While many teams prefer Cowart as a pitcher, the word is that Cowart would rather hit. The old adage is it only takes one team for something like that to happen and it does appear there are a few in the first round that might consider it. Cowart's a switch-hitter with pop from both sides, though more of it shows right-handed. A shortstop in high school, he'd move over to third, where he'd be just fine. Because he's a switch-hitting third baseman type in Georgia, he's gotten some Chipper Jones comparisons. While those may be unfair, a team that thinks he can approach that potential will nab him early.
Zack Cox, University of Arkansas
Cox, a draft-eligible sophomore, is generally regarded to be the most advanced college bat in the class, with some thinking that he has the chance to one day compete for batting titles. He's got a great approach and makes consistent contact to all fields. There is some debate over just how much power he'll have, but even if he doesn't fit the profile perfectly, he should hit enough to make up for it. He's not great defensively, with some liking him better at second when Arkansas has slid him over there, but it's his bat that should have him off the board in the top half of the opening round.
Joe Leonard, University of Pittsburgh
It's a solid year for hot-corner prospects in the Big East and Leonard has done nothing but help his Draft stock all season. The third baseman is smooth defensively and has shown the ability to hit for a high average with a good approach. He hasn't hit for a ton of power in college, but many believe that will come as he matures and fills out his frame. With the season he's had, he could hear his name called as high as the second round.
Chad Lewis, Marina HS, Calif.
Lewis looks the part of a future third baseman and should have the skills to stay there. He can flat-out rake and tends to come up big against top competition. He's got some pop, with plenty of room to grow into more. As a former shortstop who's already outgrown the position, he's got plenty of defensive skills to be a good third baseman. He's a tick or two below the top high school bats in this class, but he shouldn't have to wait too long to hear his name called.
Hunter Morris, Auburn University
A second-round pick of the Red Sox in 2007, Hunter didn't sign and opted to attend Auburn instead. He shook off a so-so sophomore season to put up very good numbers as a junior, both in terms of average and power, something he should be able to continue at the next level. A decent athlete, he's improved defensively at first and has even shown the ability to handle an outfield corner spot. In a year short on impact college bats, it wouldn't be surprising if Morris snuck in as high as the supplemental first round.
Michael Olt, 3B, University of Connecticut
Olt really fits the profile of a corner infielder, with plenty of raw and in-game power and a good approach at the plate. He shook off some injuries to put up some solid run-producing numbers this season and has worked hard to make his defense solid at third. His size, strength and bat speed could have him off the board with his Big East cohort Leonard as high as the second round.
Tony Thompson, Kansas University
Thompson reminds some of a young Paul Konerko-type and the team that takes him hopes he can follow that development path. A broken kneecap caused him to start slowly, but Thompson has plus power to all fields. He didn't have good range to begin with, as most saw a move to first base in his future even before the injury. But he should have the bat to profile well at that position.
Christian Yelich, Westlake HS, Calif.
Scouts rave about Yelich's smooth swing from the left side of the plate, one that generates plenty of line drives and should allow him to hit for a high average. There's also agreement that he's a good athlete with speed that you don't usually see in a first baseman, though his below-average arm should keep him there, and that his athleticism makes him a good defender at first. The one question is how much power he may have in the future, with some thinking he'll grow into some, though most see more of a John Olerud career path if everything works out. That should be enough to get him selected in the first few rounds.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.