While I won't write anything about Georgia to rival my Florida draft prospects notebook, the Peach State's prep crop is worth it's own article. The colleges are down this year with some mid-round options at Georgia Tech leading the way but the Atlanta-area high school talent is top notch, overflowing with pro-level center fielders. I spent the last week in the area checking up on these players and have a full year of history with some of them. Here's how I rank them right now, with a full top 100 prospects list on the horizon.
I've share my feelings on Frazier a good bit over the past few months and if you're wondering where I stand on him vs. Austin Meadows, I unfolded those thoughts on this week's Marginal Prospects podcast.
Frazier has a maxed-out 6'1, 190-pound frame but has plus-plus bat speed, plus power, plus speed and an easy plus arm. The reputation coming into the spring that Frazier is a lesser tools/big production guy is only half wrong as he brings big tools and game performance to the table. The concerns on Frazier are two-fold: that he has trouble corralling his bat speed enough to consistently hit different types of pitches and that his outfield instincts may force him to move to right field. I'm not concerned about either of these things. I saw Addison Russell struggle at times to gear down big bat speed against inferior prep pitching before he went bananas in pro ball and Frazier had a much more productive showcase season against top pitching with wood bats than Russell did. I haven't had a chance to watch Frazier extensively on defense but I don't doubt he can be a fine defender in center with 60 speed on the 20-80 scale. This is a rare toolset that doesn't really have any comps--the closest I could find is Javier Baez and he has a different body and is an infielder. Some scouts see a lack of comps as a weakness and for middling talents, I'd agree, but uniqueness and elite talent is a great sign for me. If Frazier gets out of the top five, it may be the kind of mistake that gets a scouting director fired.
I've also written about Meadows a lot, most recently here and here. I don't understand why certain media outlets rank Meadows over Frazier and it sounds like this will change as the draft nears as many scouts have turned to Frazier as their top prep prospect after an up-and-down spring from Meadows. Meadows is a fine prospect and will probably be the second-ranked prep prospect for me, but it's a good bit behind in Atlanta-area counterpart and longtime friend Frazier.
Meadows has bulked up this spring and is now 6'3, 220 pounds. He also appears to have lost a step, making him a 55 to 60 runner and, along with his fringy arm, increasing his odds of moving to left field in pro ball. Meadows has solid defensive instincts that will allow him to be an above average corner defender and also a sweet left-handed swing that generates average to slightly above raw power. The problem for me is that the power comes up a bit short for a corner despite looking the part across the board and the sweet swing doesn't produce as much as you want it to. In the two linked pieces above, I point out that this is due to a swing flaw (an arm bar) that he's had for the whole year I've scouted him, despite a number making other changes to his swing. I don't think it's easily fixable despite Meadows' age (turns 18 just before the draft) and intriguing athletic package. Texas prep RHP Kohl Stewart and California prep 1B Dominic Smith are competing with Meadows for second best high school player on my board and all should go from picks 6-15.
Speaking of swing flaws, I spoke with some scouts in Georgia this week about what I saw a few weeks back from Josh Hart and they saw it recently from him as well. He basically stands up and locks his knees at contact but is a good enough athlete that he still makes solid contact and clubs think he'll be able to make adjustments in pro ball with coaching. Along with his gap power, plus-plus speed, above average arm and advanced defensive ability, scouts compare his tool package to Kenny Lofton. Even with his more awkward swing, Hart is still in play in the late first round and should be off the board comfortably in the top 50 picks.
Wrenn was a known prospect to area scouts that I saw briefly in Jupiter last October but he's really come on this spring. Scouts already want to love him due to his top-notch makeup and big league bloodlines, but it's hard not to admire his 6'2, 180 pound athletic frame with 70 speed. While I didn't see him all-out sprint in my two game look last week, scouts swear he's faster than Hart, whose speed shows up more often in games. Wrenn is more of a big athlete that needs to get up to speed and can cruise most of a high school game while Hart can get 0 to 60 quickly and does so often.
Wrenn is a solid defender with an average arm and actually flashes the potential for average raw power with some feel to hit. The raw tools are a little better than Hart but Wrenn has had some trouble squaring up pitching this spring as much as scouts would like to see. This may be due to a swing flaw of his own (although Frank Thomas, Byron Buxton and Hunter Renfroe all do the same thing) where he makes contact with his back foot off the ground. This is more fixable than Meadows' flaw but not something that can be eliminated in a weekend. Wrenn rotates his hips a little early, causing his weight to over-shift to his front foot and affecting his ability to make consistent contact. With his big upside, an excuse for some offensive struggles and the makeup and bloodlines that scouts covet, I could see Wrenn getting into the sandwich round and can't see him slipping out of the second round.5. Travis Demeritte, SS, Winder Barrow HS, South Carolina signee
I saw Demeritte a good bit over the past year and wrote him off as a 3rd-4th round pick with a good chance of going to school. I didn't like him much at the plate despite some looseness and plus bat speed because he was pull oriented and wild with little sense of the strike zone. Something has happened since then as Demeritte has gotten a little more athletic at shortstop and has a chance, albeit slim, of sticking at the position long-term and his offensive approach has greatly improved. His swing is cleaner and lower effort and in the first at bat I saw this week, he hit a home run to the opposite field after I hadn't seen contact to the opposite field from him all summer.
The issue here is that Demeritte has 40 raw power that, despite having some projection to the upper body of his 6'1, 175 pound frame, won't profile on a corner. I, along with most other scouts, don't think he's a long-term shortstop due to his only solid-average speed and some focus issues, but he could be a fit at second base. There is some real feel to hit, an improved approach and some game power that projects, but the bat is the carrying tool as Demeritte has never played second base before and you're wasting his 55 arm at the keystone. I can't project more than a low-end everyday second baseman, but that's not nothing in this draft when there's some conviction that he can hit. Demeritte has had lots of heat in to see him lately but I think that's more due to him being a different prospect than over the summer rather than being a legitimate first round pick that scouting attention normally indicates. There's a chance he goes in the sandwich round if a team thinks he's a long-term shortstop, but he fits better in the second round and he shouldn't get out of the round.
Four other players have some chance to be drafted pretty high and/or be impact college freshman from this year's Atlanta prep crop:
- Riverwood HS center fielder Terry McClure opened my eyes in Jupiter and I planned on seeing him during my week in Atlanta before scouts informed me that he's gone backwards this spring. They universally knocked his body language and ability to hit middling stuff in the zone this spring, even adding he looked slower. McClure is the youngest prospect projected for the top few rounds and could still be a nice speculation play in the middle round but scouts seem to think he'll end up at Georgia Tech. His above average bat speed, foot speed and athleticism with some pop could be a package scouts regret passing on soon after he gets to campus, like last year's toolsy center fielder from the Atlanta area that is now starring at North Carolina, Skye Bolt.
- John's Creek HS lefty A HREF=//rangers.scout.com/a.z?s=324&p=8&c=1&nid=6947973>Connor Jones has the same name as a higher profile prep righty from Virginia (who should go in the top 50 picks) but Georgia's Jones could also get in the top five rounds. Jones has been garnering a lot of scouting attention and has good projection remaining on a 6'3, 190 pound frame. The lefty has sits 88-92, hitting 94 mph and his arm action looks clean at first glance. He'll spin an average slow curveball but the feel, command and delivery could all be better. It's a heavy torque delivery and Jones overstrides, getting too low and giving away plane while pitching against his front leg rather than over it. His elbow gets very high in the back of his delivery, his arm is late to catch up with his body, he isn't a great athlete and there's an awkward finish to his delivery--there's some definite risk here. The Georgia signee lives in a very affluent area of Atlanta and doesn't need the money, though some scouts get the feeling he still could be signable in the tpp five rounds. A 6'3 lefty that's hit 94 with a good curveball could be welcome in a down draft but clubs that look closely at mechanics will likely pass.
- Crisp County HS righty Robert Tyler is the only prospect listed that isn't based in Atlanta, as he's in the rural south Georgia town of Cordele. Tyler is a UGA signee with a chance to go in the 4th-5th round area on the strength of a fastball that's hit 95 mph this spring. Tyler has good size at 6'4, 190 pounds but his arm action is long in the back (which affects his command) and his off speed pitches are both fringy. His fastball is most effective with some life at 90-91 mph and he gives away some plane with a lower slot than scouts like to see, so going to campus seems the most likely outcome unless a club buys into his projection.
- Redan HS shortstop Wesley Jones won MVP of the tournament in Jupiter with a huge performance and comes from the same high school that produced Brandon Phillips, Domonic Brown and Chris Nelson. That pedigree and his advanced feel to hit would figure to get him more attention than he's received from scouts this spring. They're still skeptical of his pro potential with only average bat speed, below average foot speed that limits him to a corner where his plus-plus arm will play but his below average power doesn't profile. He should still get drafted but most scouts I talked to haven't seen Jones in weeks and expect him to go to school, in what could become a very strong class for the Bulldogs.