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Ryan Eades - 2014

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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, [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]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)

Attached Image: alemais.jpg

[COLOR=#666666][FONT=Arial]BRYAN PACE FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS[/FONT][/COLOR]


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"?


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