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  • Draft Preview: "Personal Cheeseballs" (Hitters)

    At some point, while researching for a previous draft, I came across a Baseball America podcast where they were discussing their “personal cheeseballs”. At first I was a little confused, but quickly came to realize that these “cheeseballs” were their favorites. In fact, to qualify to be a “personal cheeseball” you have to fit into only two categories: one – be a favorite; two – don’t be too good.

    For example, one of the BA guys (I think it was Callis, but I could be wrong) really liked Massachusetts prep outfielder Rhett Wiseman. Why I remember that one, I don’t know. Wiseman was ranked #136 in their pre-draft 500, had a solid commitment to Vanderbilt and ended up attending there after being drafted by the Cubs in the 25th round (764th overall).

    Obviously the “don’t be too good” is a rule only because it would be really easy to look back at a draft and say, “I knew Bryce Harper was going to be a stud, that’s why he was my personal cheeseball.” Not exactly living on the edge.

    I thought this year was as good as any to publicize my own personal cheeseballs. Today’s edition will focus on three hitters, none of which are ranked in Jon Mayo’s Top 75 draft prospects or appear in Keith Law’s future 50 (plus 10).

    Stephen Alemais, SS, Elev/8 Sports Institute (FL)


    BRYAN PACE FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

    Alemais first caught my attention after reading about a showcase in the northeast two summers ago. It was something simple like “slick-fielding shortstop that could stick there professionally”. Given the Twins lack of success drafting shortstops and, really, the lack of Americans who man the position in the MLB, I think Alemais caught my eye because he’d be spending the rest of his high school career (and college or professionaly) in an “underdog” role.

    Are you asking yourself why a Florida kid was participating in a Northeast Showcase? If you are, good. This is where the story takes a turn. After trying to check his progress this spring, I noticed that Alemais was no longer listed with his prep team, All Hallows High School located in the Bronx. It was then that I found out that he had transferred from All Hallows to the Elev/8 Sports Institute in Delray Beach, Florida.

    Alemais, who committed to Tulane University last April, injured his shoulder in a playoff game last summer (which led to labrum surgery) and decided that it would be in his best interest to move to a place where he could play against better competition, not have to worry about the weather, and prove that he was back to good health.

    Luis Alicea, a 13-year big league veteran, is the Executive Director at Elev/8. Alicea expects big things from Alemais telling the New York Daily News a couple weeks ago that “he’s a very talented kid.” He added, “You look at him in a uniform and he has a little resemblance to a Derek Jeter, when you see his body. Athletically he’s very gifted. He’s very fast; he has quick hands. It’s like the game comes easy to him sometimes. He’s got a huge future ahead of him.”

    He’s currently the 42nd ranked draft prospect in the state of Florida according to Perfect Game. Alemais is strong academically, so dropping too far may force him to Tulane, but you’ve got to believe that uprooting and moving to Florida was done to improve his draft stock.

    The Twins typically try to add a middle infielder in the first 10 rounds. (Last year, they waited until Round 16 when they drafted Kentucky prepster SS Will Hurt.) I would hope the Twins would consider Alemais somewhere between rounds five and ten.

    Brian Navarreto, C, Arlington County Day (FL) HS

    Navarreto makes an appearance on MLB’s Top 100 draft prospects, but its in the back half. All the way down at number 89. Navarreto hasn’t gotten the hype of two other prep catchers in Florida, Chris Okey and Zack Collins, but is an interesting prospect in his own right.

    Navarreto is a pretty big dude (6’3, 220), but surprisingly athletic and, though raw, has all the stuff including agility and above-average arm strength to stay behind the plate. His big right-handed swing still has a ways to go, but, overall, Navarreto is a high-ceilling prospect.

    He’s also still somewhat unknown. Navarreto followed the path of Javier Baez, who also attended Arlington County Day, in that he is a Puero Rican native who came to Florida later in his prep days. Though he really just came onto the scene last summer, he’s already committed to South Carolina.

    Navarreto was in the news over a month ago when his team was involved in a bench-clearing altercation with Norman North (OK) High School. While the cause of the fight alledgedly was the result of racial overtones, Navarreto was a central figure when he punched an oppoent in the face after a play at the plate. (You can read the story and see some video here.)

    The Twins drafted a similar-type player, Jorge Fernandez, last year in the 7th round. Navarreto is a higher-regarded prospect and could possibly come off of the board in the third or fourth round.

    Justin Williams, OF, Terrebonne (LA) HS

    Easily the most well-known of my three “cheeseballs”, Williams also appears late in the Top 100 (at #88). Williams sometimes gets first-round mention, but appears to be a sandwich round pick at best and probably someone that fits into the second round. This isn’t really through a fault of his own, though. Williams’s prep team wasn’t very good (10-18 on the year) and the typical strategy opposing teams employed was to simply not pitch to Williams.

    So while teams didn’t get to see Wiliams, who won’t turn 18 until August, a lot in game action, they did get to see him in BP where he routinely put on a show. His power-potential ceiling is probably on par with Adam Walker’s, though Williams bats from the left side.

    Williams evokes a lot of comparisons to Jason Heyward for both the physical resemblence (Williams is a chiseled 6’3, 215) and also his defensive question marks as a prep. Heyward was a first baseman in high school and scouts doubted he could be an outfielder. (Heyward won the Gold Glove last year, at age 22. Whoops.) Williams played shortstop for his high-school team. So along with not getting to see him bat in game situations, scouts didn't get to see him play defense in game situations at his likely home – a corner outfield position. If any scouts were overly impressed by his glove, they could give him a shot at 3B before moving him to the outfield.

    Williams’ profile really fits the way the Rangers have drafted recently, but the Twins also went out looking for power last year and there might not be a prep prospect with more power potential. Oh, and I drafted Williams for my dynasty keeper league in March of 2012, so there’s that too.

    Who are some hitters that you consider your "Personal Cheeseballs"?
    This article was originally published in blog: Draft Preview: "Personal Cheeseballs" (Hitters) started by Jeremy Nygaard
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Haha, I almost completely missed this article because it got pushed down pretty quick. Good read and I'm excited to see your next list with pitchers on it.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      I have nothing to add, except to express my awe at people who have intelligent-sounding opinions about amateur players who don't crack top-75 types of lists. Thanks for the insights on these second/third/fourth-round sleepers.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      I have nothing to add, except to express my awe at people who have intelligent-sounding opinions about amateur players who don't crack top-75 types of lists. Thanks for the insights on these second/third/fourth-round sleepers.
      Hear hear.

      Though the Twins did draft a middle infielder in the first ten rounds last year, LJ Mazzilli just happened to be a soundrel who did not sign.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      Though the Twins did draft a middle infielder in the first ten rounds last year, LJ Mazzilli just happened to be a soundrel who did not sign.
      True story. I should have said they try to draft a guy that has a chance to stick at shortstop. Mazzilli was a great pick, in fact, though his value was tied up entirely in his bat.
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      Okey is my cheeseball. I hope he's there at 41 or whatever.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      After noticing that I only included prep hitters, I'm going to do three more lists. So hopefully you all enjoy. Not sure what group is next.

      On another note, Torii Hunter Jr is draft-eligible this year. I don't think the Twins will.
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      Jeremy, what is your take on MLBTR's report the Twins are negotiating with Reese McGuire, HS-C, out of Washington? You list Okey and Collins as the top two catchers. Why are the Twins focusing on this young man with so many good Pitchers on the board and the two catchers you see with a higher upside? We got burned pretty bad by the last kid we drafted #1 from Washington.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      The Twins consider McGuire to be the top prep catcher on the board for the reasons you'd expect: smart and really good defensively. He has a nice swing, but there are questions about his hit tool

      I don't make much of the BA-started-MLBTR-reported-Law-confirmed-rumors. The Twins are doing their homework. McGuire isn't a Top 4 talent. He knows that and the Twins know that. I posted this in another thread, but I asked someone with the Twins about this rumor and was told that "cutting a deal" isn't even something they'll begin to approach until the week of the draft.

      The Twins are in a position where they draw the line for what they're going to spend, and if no one bites, they can sign McGuire for considerably cheaper. Regardless of what happens in round 1, I'd anticipate a lot of pitchers drafted in rounds 2-10. I also believe that the addition of May and Meyer, plus the early success of Berrios, Baxendale, Rogers and Melotakis really have the Twins thinking their pitching stable isn't as bare as it was last year when they took Buxton.

      As far as Okey and Collins being the top two catchers I listed... I'm not sure what that list is, currently, I consider McGuire and Denney to be the top two, though I really like a couple other guys that could go later (including one in the above article).
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      The farm system has a ton of good arms with several of them being close to the bigs in Gibson, Meyers, and May. Add in the fact the Wimmers will be back at some point and the solid group of arms drafted last year, I have no idea why people are obsessed with grabbing a arm at 4. Obviously you can never have enough pitching but there is no point to reach for an arm at 4 when the draft is deep in them.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmb0252 View Post
      The farm system has a ton of good arms with several of them being close to the bigs in Gibson, Meyers, and May. Add in the fact the Wimmers will be back at some point and the solid group of arms drafted last year, I have no idea why people are obsessed with grabbing a arm at 4. Obviously you can never have enough pitching but there is no point to reach for an arm at 4 when the draft is deep in them.
      I'm not sure this system has a ton of good arms. It has a lot more than what it did last year at this time, but it's still barren in that area... Also hurting up the middle, but there's nothing in this draft (at least for their first pick) that can help in that area.
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmb0252 View Post
      The farm system has a ton of good arms with several of them being close to the bigs in Gibson, Meyers, and May. Add in the fact the Wimmers will be back at some point and the solid group of arms drafted last year, I have no idea why people are obsessed with grabbing a arm at 4. Obviously you can never have enough pitching but there is no point to reach for an arm at 4 when the draft is deep in them.
      In this draft you have 4 great arms in Appel, Manaea, Grey and Stanek. Were pretty deep in quality bats that are up and coming. With our history of Gibson and Wimmers both needing a year after surgery I'd like to deepin the pool with one of the above college pitchers. Can you imagine a rotation of Meyer, May, Gibson, Diamond and one of the above a couple of years down the line if they all stayed healthy? I think you can get a pretty good catching prospect in Round 2. Besides Josmil Pinto is looking like a great prospect at catch.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rick Niedermann View Post
      In this draft you have 4 great arms in Appel, Manaea, Grey and Stanek. Were pretty deep in quality bats that are up and coming. With our history of Gibson and Wimmers both needing a year after surgery I'd like to deepin the pool with one of the above college pitchers. Can you imagine a rotation of Meyer, May, Gibson, Diamond and one of the above a couple of years down the line if they all stayed healthy? I think you can get a pretty good catching prospect in Round 2. Besides Josmil Pinto is looking like a great prospect at catch.
      Manaea and Stanek are great arms? They have been incredibly inconsistent this year and have shown no signs of being top of the rotation arms. I think people are just blinded by the fact they want a college arm that they are ignoring the many defaults. This draft is incredibly deep in college arms. If they want an advanced arm with flaws grab one in the second round.
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