Thursday, May 23, 2013
Scouting Southland and Conference USA
By Keith Law
SUGAR LAND, TX -- Some notes from the Southland and Conference USA tournaments on Wednesday:
• Oral Roberts right-hander Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez has been one of the biggest risers in this year's draft, moving up from 44th on my mid-March rankings into the teens right now, with a very good chance he goes somewhere in the top 15 overall picks. Gonzalez threw on short rest on Wednesday morning in the Southland Conference tournament and was good, but not as good as he's been in recent weeks. His four-seamer was 90-93 mph, straight but mostly low in the zone, with his 87-88 cutter/slider his out pitch, with hard tilting action on the pitch. Gonzalez showed he could throw it for a strike or make right-handers chase it into the other batter's box. His third pitch on Wednesday was a low-80s changeup with split-like action, a pitch he hasn't used a ton this season, instead usually using a slider in that same velocity range, but it could be an average pitch if his feel for it improves. Gonzalez has a modest frame, not projectable, with a loose arm and some torque from hip rotation, although he could get his pitching hand turned over a little sooner. He's a very strong ground-ball guy, which will increase his appeal to clubs that utilize statistical analysis in their draft process. One senior evaluator told me that in his view, Gonzalez "isn't that far behind [Jonathan] Gray." I think Chi Chi's market starts with the Red Sox at No. 7 and ends with a floor of Arizona at 15 and the White Sox at 17.
• Stephen F. Austin shortstop Hunter Dozier was the one Lumberjacks hitter who had no trouble with Gonzalez, scorching the ball in every at-bat before those of us there to evaluate left to head over to Reckling Park for the Conference USA tournament. He's not a long-term shortstop, but he'll be a very good third baseman on both sides of the ball. Dozier's swing is very rotational, with extremely strong hands to allow him to control the bat head and make solid contact on pitches on the inner half. His above-average raw power should translate to 20-25 homers down the road. He's an average runner who doesn't seem to have the hands or lateral agility for short, but should be fine at second or third base. I've heard of Dozier going anywhere from the end of the first round to the early second round, but with the paucity of quality college bats in this draft, especially infielders, I think he goes in the earlier end of that range.
• Tulane's Tony Rizzotti had a little hype earlier in the spring when he was 92-96 as a starter, but concerns about his delivery pushing him to the bullpen muted that hype, and then back spasms took him out for three weeks in May. His return to the mound on Wednesday wasn't a great look for him, as he was 89-92, albeit with very good life on the pitch, and showed a ton of effort just to achieve that velocity. His slider was 79-82 and backed up on him several times, while he had a little better luck with his 80-81 changeup, which he used to lefties when he got ahead in the count. Rizzotti doesn't push off the rubber well and most of his velocity comes from his upper body, with a long arm swing and a lot of effort from his shoulder as he brings the ball up and over his body toward release. Even if he were throwing in the mid-90s yesterday I'd still peg him as a reliever due to the delivery, probably a third- to fifth-rounder this year.
• Memphis lefty Sam “Gangster” Moll has earned comparisons this spring to Tim Collins as another diminutive lefty with an aggressive approach and surprising velocity. Moll works as a starter and has been successful this year, but starters his size are very rare and he doesn't have a plus pitch to miss bats as a starter in pro ball. Moll was mostly 89-93 on Wednesday, picking up some velocity as he went on, with a short, hard slider that he struggled to command and was using too often to right-handed batters, preferring it to his hard changeup, which was a below-average pitch itself. There's also some effort in Moll's delivery that might push him to the bullpen even if he were a little taller, although I think the arm strength and competitiveness would make him a top-50 pick if he were 6-1 or so.