Scouting obligations have kept me out of pocket on the Camden Depot coverage, but we return to our pref list this week with an updated list and brief comparison of the two high school outfielders on the list: Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Baxley, Ga.) and Albert Almora (Mater Academy, Hialeah Gardens, Fla.):
Tale of the tape:
Albert Almora measures in at 6-foot-2, 175-pounds, showing average speed in the field that plays up on the bases due to his aggressive approach to the game and advanced feel. Buxton is a true burner, among the fastest 1st Round players the draft has seen in the last few years -- on par with Derek "Bubba" Starling, the fifth overall pick last year (Kansas City Royals). Physically, he stands 6-foot-1, 175-pounds with a broad frame that will hold additional thickness as he matures. Almora will be 18-years, 2-months old in June, while Buxton will be 18-years, 6-months.
In the field:
Buxton has the sexier tool set, with true "80" speed (top of the charts on the scouting scale) and a plus-plus arm that some evaluators have likewise rated as an "80". His approach and feel are still generally raw, the effect of which can be spun two ways. If you are an optimist, you see this as a player with the speed to outrun mistakes in routes and first steps, with a chance to improve his execution with pro instruction. If you are a little more conservative, you wonder if the missteps off the bat and the sometimes deviated routes will negate the foot speed that should allow him to cover gap-to-gap without effort. Overall, he is a starter kit for an elite defensive center fielder, but inconsistent time on the diamond makes it difficult to determine how easy it will be to assemble the kit.
Almora, on the other hand, has a feel for the outfield that you seldom see outside of the pro ranks. His jumps off the bat are among the best I've ever seen in a prep player, and his routes and ability to close and finish belie his average foot speed. He covers a wide swath in center, with his feel for the craft potentially allowing him to provide plus defense up-the-middle. He has the arm strength and accuracy for center field, as well. While Almora lacks the elite defensive upside of Buxton, he comes with much more probability, and can still be among the better defensive players in the game.
Almora might be the best pure hitter at the prep ranks, and profiles as a potential .310/.400/.500 bat, with his slugging a solid mix of doubles and homeruns. While his "now" power is somewhat limited in-game, his bat speed, ability to square, swing plane, loft, and pre-game showings indicate he could easily grow into 55/60 power when all is said and done. His understanding of the strikezone is advanced, and his quick hands afford him the opportunity to delay the start of his swing long enough to get him an extra few feet to identify pitches.
As is the case with his defense, the upside in Buxton's bat is incredible. If everything clicks, he profiles as a monster three-spot hitter with slash potential of .290/.360/.550 bat (and that might be light on the hit tool). Also as is the case with his defense, Buxton is a ways off from realizing this potential. He gets long with his swing path and couples that with an extended stride that can throw off the rotational flow of his core, sapping pop. While he has received dings in the media due to the lack of homeruns this spring, there is no lack of raw power here. What we are likely seeing is a slightly out-of-whack swing leading to inconsistent hard contact, which should be addressed as he receives pro instruction and shortens his stride and swing.
Do you like probability or upside? Buxton has all of the physical tools you look for in a baseball player, and a true five-tool player that can be plus or better across the board simply doesn't come along very often. At the same time, Almora provides a refinement and feel that you seldom find in a prep player. Both are legit top-5 overall talents, and your personal preference between the two likely depends on your philosophy towards investment in and development of teenage prospects.
On to the updated 1:4 pref list. As a reminder, this is not necessarily the list of the top 10 players in the draft, but rather a list of players that, for various reasons, we have identified as targets for Baltimore at 1:4, were we doing the drafting:
Current Preference List (May 9, 2012)
1. Kevin Gausman, rhp, Louisiana St. Univ.
2. Albert Almora, of, Mater Acad. (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
3. Carlos Correa, ss/3b, Puerto Rico Baseball Acad. (Gurabo, P.R.)
4. Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford Univ.
5. Byron Buxton, of, Appling County HS (Baxley, Ga.)
6. Lucas Giolito, rhp, Harvard-Westlake HS (Studio City, Calif.)
7. Kyle Zimmer, rhp, Univ. of San Francisco
8. Mike Zunino, c, Univ. of Florida
9. Gavin Cecchini, ss, Barbe HS (Lake Charles, La.)
10. Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona St. Univ.
For today's draft video, here's a look at our new #1 on the pref list, LSU ace Kevin Gausman -- video shot on my Louisiana scouting trip this spring: