The middle infield class as a whole this year really isn’t as terrible as some think. The high school class of middle infielders is very interesting, mainly for those projected to go in the earlier rounds. I think the reason most see this class as lackluster is that they first look to the college ranks to see who is draft eligible, and there is not a whole lot to like there this year. Nonetheless, there are a few borderline-middle infield bats that could turn out to be valuable professionals. Not many stand out as pure shortstops, with a number of the names below being a bit of a stretch in that they could end up in the outfield, or an infield corner. \
- Brandon Trinkwon, UC Santa Barbara: One of the more likely guys to stick at the position past his amateur career. He really jumped on teams’ radar after a consistent showing with the bat this past summer in Cape Cod League action. There is a lot to like in his approach at the plate, with strong walk and contact rates, along with a solid doubles stroke. Trinkwon has a knack for squaring up the ball, although it does not result in much power. Fortunately for him it sounds as if he has all of the requisite tools to stay at SS and be at least an average defender there. With league average defense and a potentially above-average bat at shortstop, the Gauchos’ infielder could be a very solid pick for any organization.
- Adam Frazier, Mississippi State: If teams begin to see more power production out of the shortstop, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him ranked as the best college shortstop by some. With a patient approach and strong hit tool alone, Frazier would stand out this year, but with solid defense on top of that, he is a very interesting guy to follow heading into spring. If by the end of his junior year there isn’t any increase in power to speak of, Frazier does become a little less interesting. Solid defense and a strong hit tool could still take him far, but a total lack of power (to go with not a lot of speed) makes for an uphill battle.
- Hunter Dozier, Stephen F. Austin: Has more potential than a lot of the other middle infielders available. Dozier doesn’t play at the biggest school by any means (in the Southland conference) so don’t go reading too far into his sophomore year (.357/.431/.595). Nonetheless, he has shown enough speed, power, and a decent enough approach at the plate to get teams’ attention heading into 2013 (a top-10 wOBA in Division I ball doesn’t hurt either). The shortstop didn’t hit for incredible average in the Northwoods league this summer at .257 (arguably the 2nd best summer league), but did display nice power and speed to go with a strong k/bb ratio. Of all college middle infielders, he is one of the more likely prospects to move up draft boards, even if his also one of the most raw. His tools make him one of the more interesting college bats at shortstop.
Follow after the break for the rest of the Top 10…
- Jordan Hankins, Austin Peay: Hankins has spent some time behind the plate, but a future at 2nd seems to be where most have him projected. The Governors’ second baseman had a strong year at the plate (.336/.444/.544) in the Ohio Valley Conference, where he showed off an offensive skill set that may prove valuable. Though you have to slightly discount the strong production considering Austin Peay’s competitors, you cannot ignore the things Hankins has done. His approach at the plate has been quality, with a good eye and pretty decent pop for an up-the-middle player. By most accounts it sounds as if he shouldn’t have to worry about a shift to a corner position, where his power is more that of a tweener.
- Chad Pinder, Virginia Tech: Definitely a more traditional third baseman than up-the-middle player. Even so, he has played 2nd before, and the defensive shift has been proven to be not that drastic based on past metrics for similar players. If Pinder can somehow stick at the position, he could prove to be a well above-average bat up the middle. His hit and power tools are assets that could make him a decent enough bench bat in the pros at a corner position. At 2nd, those tools would play up much more, even if his approach is a bit too aggressive. The Hokies’ infielder further solidified his case with a strong showing in the 2012 Cape Cod League (.278/.345/.532), making him one of the better 2013 Draft-eligible bats there.
- Erich Weiss, Texas: I know it’s a bit of a stretch to have the third baseman here (projected at 2nd), but with so few decent college bats to write about up the middle, why not? Weiss had a top-15 wOBA in Division I ball last year, and is one of the more underrated bats coming out of the college ranks in 2013. Unfortunately for him, it really is a bit of a stretch to see him playing 2nd base as a professional, if only because the shift from 3rd to 2nd rarely happens successfully (or at all period). Aside from a strong hit tool and solid power, his approach at the plate is excellent, so the transition out of amateur ball shouldn’t be too tough.
- Jacoby Jones, LSU: Has one of the best mixes of tools in the entire middle infield crop (even if he projects to be an outfielder). Jones has long been on the radar of pro teams. Ever since he stepped on campus he’s impressed with his athleticism, power, and speed. Unfortunately for Jones, the production hasn’t quite matched the potential thus far, as he saw a strong decline in his numbers from freshman to sophomore year. Nonetheless, in this lackluster class Jones should garner a decently high-round selection based on potential alone. I don’t think he ends up being a first rounder like most have him projected to be unless he really turns things around in 2013.
- Kyle Farmer, Georgia: At the moment, he seems likely to provide more value with the glove that with the bat. Farmer has proven himself to be a solid defender in the past with good range and a quality arm in his years as a Bulldog. It remains to be seen how his bat will translate to the pros, though. His aggressive, somewhat high-contact approach is aided by a decent hit tool and doubles stroke. Farmer may not necessarily ever produce near to league average walk rates after college, but his power and hit tools may prove to be above average value up the middle offensively. Even though there are plenty of questions with the bat for this senior, this draft class should elevate his stock far beyond last year’s 35th round spot.
- L.J. Mazzilli, UConn: The third of our defensively-questionable infielders. His defense at second base has been rated between below-average and a tic above average for most of his college career. The mixed bag of reviews aside, it does seem as if though he stands a shot of being an average defender there as a professional. Mazzilli has played shortstop before as well, so the skills may be there to be further developed with the right team. Though he has been a consistent run producer at UConn, Mazzilli has rarely impressed in summer league action. It is not a total denunciation of his talent as a hitter, but I’m sure it is a bit of a red flag for teams hoping he can be a bat-first second basemen. Without the above-average bat, he likely wouldn’t bring much more than replacement value.
- Tony Kemp, Vanderbilt: Also not quite exactly a middle infielder. Kemp has spent some time at 2nd, but has played the lion’s share of his time in the outfield. Before this summer, I wouldn’t say he was a non-prospect, but he was not in the conversation for the best available in the 2013 Draft. After his performance this summer, the Vandy infielder might have just earned himself a selection quite a bit higher (.343/.489/.583, 18 sb/5 cs). He has been, and still very well may end up holding tweener status by the end of next spring, as many think of him as a corner outfielder. Kemp certainly appears to have the speed to hold down an up the middle position, so it may just be a matter of him needing a larger investment by a coaching staff and organization to fully realize his potential. Still, one should keep in mind that his performance at Vanderbilt has not impressed much. He will