Feature Photo: Cole Ragans, LHP, North Florida Christian (FL)
Welcome to the third week of 2080’s Perfect Game Draft Pack series. Among the prospects profiled this week are a 17-year-old high schooler that may be the the first shortstop taken off the board in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft; one of the best power hitters in the college game; and a 5’8″ second baseman considered to be the best overall hitter in the 2016 draft class.
Perfect Game Prospect Profiles
Delvin Perez, SS, International Baseball Academy (Loiza, PR)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/175 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 17y, 6m
Projected Draft Round: 1
The first time that this scout saw Delvin Perez was back in July of 2014, and even as a player who was just 15 years old the talent and overall upside was evident. In the event’s program Perez was listed at 6-foot-1, 150-pounds, though he looked taller and even more lean than the 150-pound stature suggested. Listed as a shortstop, Perez manned the hot corner in my initial viewing but the fluidity and ease in which he moved through the ball made it easy to envision him as a high-end shortstop in the future.
Relatively unknown back in 2014, Perez made the rounds throughout the summer, ran the 60-yard dash at the BCS Finals, where his best was clocked at 6.70 twice, and he was up to 87 mph on the mound, giving an idea of just how talented he was. Showing the signs of defensive abilities that would rank amongst the best in his class (2016), and within the top handful of the year prior, Perez began his ascent up the ranks to his current No. 10 position.
Full of fast-twitch muscle and athleticism, Perez has continued to lengthen out and add strength since 2014, and understandably so, without losing an ounce of his defensive acumen. With easy range to either side, a trait that was put on full display in Jupiter (when he made arguably the best defensive play of the tournament from his backside), Perez shows incredibly light footwork with long, fluid strides and soft, near flawless hands. To finish plays Perez shows plus arm strength across the diamond, as he was clocked at 93 mph at the Perfect Game National last June, showing plenty of zip and carry out of his hand.
Not only did the arm and the speed develop (down to a 6.53 second 60-yard dash at the National) but so did the bat, a tool that has only grown stronger since that initial viewing back in July of 2014. With the additional strength to his frame Perez is now able to create whip with the barrel head and shows surprising jump off the barrel given how much projectability still remains on his frame. The WWBA World Championship served as his platform in solidifying himself as a lock first-round pick, and in all likelihood the first shortstop to come off the board thanks to his showing with the bat and his ability to square up high quality pitching.
As you line up up all the tools and look at the overall profile you can see a top-10 overall type draft pick, a notion that can be re-affirmed when you realize just how young he truly is (played the entire summer circuit and in Jupiter at 16) and the lack of depth at the shortstop position. –Jheremy Brown
Zack Collins, C/1B, Univ. of Miami (FL)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/220 | B/T: L/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 4m
Projected Draft Round: 1-2
Zack Colllins’ profile hasn’t changed much since high school, when he was one of the nation’s top offensive performers. He was ranked as the 31st best prospect in the high school class of 2013 and was a PG All-American the previous summer. Without any more detail past that, it wasn’t a big surprise the he opted to honor his commitment to Miami after he dropped to the 27th round of the 2013 draft (Reds).
It also isn’t that big of a surprise that he has one of the most selective approaches and powerful bats at the plate at the college level. In his first season with the Hurricanes Collins hit .289-11-54 and followed that up with a .302-15-70 season a year ago, serving as an integral cog to the middle of Miami’s lineup on their run to Omaha. This year’s he’s hitting over .400 (.418) and has walked more than twice the amount of times he has struck out (31 to 13) in just 24 games. The power is still there (six home runs) as is the overall run production (28 RBI).
Power comes easy for Collins, who has obvious strength in his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame. He doesn’t chase too often on pitches thrown out of the zone, especially early in the count. He’s a lefthanded hitter, and has a surprisingly short path to the ball and generates a good deal of his power from his lower half.
Collins had a few defining moments at Perfect Game events prior to his current college career. The first came when he absolutely dominated the field, especially in the playoffs, the summer after his sophomore year in high school when he was named the MVP of the 2011 16u WWBA National Championship and propelled the South Florida Elite Squad to the title. He did so by going 18-for-29 (.621) with nine extra-base hits, five walks and 16 RBI.
The following summer he put on a jaw-dropping display of power at the PG National Showcase, delivering several baseballs into the upper deck at the Metrodome and doing so with relative ease. Later that summer he was named the MVP at another tournament loaded with talent, the inaugural 17u PG World Series, which once again carried the Elite Squad to a tournament championship.
The biggest question mark surrounding Collins is his future defensive home. He currently is spending most of his time behind the plate, where he played in high school, even though he spent a lot of time at first base and as the team’s designated hitter during his first two years in college. He has more than enough arm strength, but similar to other big-bodied, slugging catchers, including the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber, he may be a better fit at another position.
He has more than enough power for first base, and shows soft hands and a good overall sense for the position where his defense could be viewed as a positive attribute. However, his value is obviously greater if he’s able to stick behind the plate at the next level, even in a Schwarber-esque utility role, at least to begin his professional career. –Patrick Ebert
Carlos Cortes, 2B/OF/C, Lake Howell (Winter Park, FL)
Ht/Wt: 5’8”/195 | B/T: L/B | Age (as of draft date): 18y, 11m
Commitment: South Carolina
Projected Draft Round: 2-3
Cortes is one of most difficult players in the 2016 high school class to figure out for professional baseball scouts. He’s a unique athlete who doesn’t fit into any neat and easy to define slots.
The first thing to factor in is that despite his short but rock solid build, Cortes is by any definition and evaluation one of the best hitters in the class. He has performed at an incredibly high level in almost every high level competition since he gained everyone’s attention as a sophomore. He hits for both power and average and he seems to hit the ball harder the harder pitchers throw. Cortes has an uncanny ability to time the full extension of his lefthanded swing to the exact moment of contact out front. His signature contact is a screaming 380-foot line drive to right-center field that frequently slams off the wall for extra bases and sometimes carries over for a home run.
Cortes has also shown with the same consistency that he is a mature hitter who can make adjustments in his swing and approach and work the ball around the field in a more high average, high contact approach. He sees the ball and will take pitches and draw walks.
The irony is that scouts know that often the best hitters come in the smallest packages. One just needs to look down an historical list of batting average champions to see how many short, and especially short armed, players are great hitters. Yet to a man, they will see a shorter hitter like Cortes and hesitate.
And then there is the fact that Cortes throws, seemingly equally well, with both hands. This, of course, muddles and confuses Cortes’ future position projection. He has a 45/50 grade arm from the outfield throwing lefthanded and played most of last summer at the corner outfield positions. Yet he’s also played extensively at second base while throwing righthanded and with plenty of work, mostly on his feet and agility, could become playable in the infield.
The experiment this spring is working Cortes behind the plate in an effort to find his ideal position. Conversations with scouts seem to indicate that Cortes has been solid defensively catching thus far, especially considering his inexperience.
It’s important to view Cortes for what he is and not look at what he’s not. He’s a 5-foot-8 supremely talented hitter and anything that detracts or distracts from his ability to hit is a negative. He’s going to work hard, because he’s a tireless worker with a chip on his shoulder and he’s going to be playable defensively wherever he winds up long-term. Just keep it simple and sit back and enjoy watching him hit.—David Rawnsley
Nicholas Quintana, SS, Arbor View (Las Vegas, NV)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/185 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 18y, 8m
Projected Draft Round: 1S-2
There may be a player in the 2016 high school class that this scout has seen play more often than Nicholas Quintana but I’m not sure who that would be. By my estimation I’ve seen him play on 40 to 50 different days, starting with shortly after he started his freshman year in high school. I’ve also interviewed him on camera and have talked to him casually off the field.
When you see a player that much over that length of time, one isn’t thinking about tools and performance anymore. An evaluator is looking for adjustments and nuances that need a context to really see.
When I did see Quintana for the first time in December, 2012, he stood out for just how easy and natural his baseball actions were. One PG scout wrote in his hitting notes “his swing is distractingly smooth and easy,” and the fielding notes are full of words such as “fluid” and “smooth.” The raw tools were still young, as expected on a player who just turned 15, but they were still evident.
The second phase of Quintana’s development was when those physical tools kicked in with maturity and off-the-field work. His arm strength shot into the plus range, with low- to mid-90s gun readings across the diamond. His speed increased from 7.5 to 7.1 in the 60-yard dash. And the bat speed became serious top prospect type bat speed with a jump in raw power. He went from being an early teen with smooth actions to a middle teen with adult tools.
The next phase saw Quintana try to package his physical development with his on-field performance. It’s very understandable given the age and tool level that a young athlete with big physical gifts wants to show them off regardless of the sport. Often times this comes with sacrificing something, though, and with Quintana it came in the form of big swings and even bigger, yet errant, throws from the left side of the infield.
The final phase that I saw late last summer and in Jupiter was the best version of Quintana, though. It was the maturing on the field version, with a shorter swing at the plate and a better focus on making the easy defensive play easily. It may even be a complete coincidence (and is completely irrelevant) that the formally long-haired Quintana was closely shorn in Jupiter.
Whatever the circumstances and reason, it’s always very satisfying to see a talented prospect mature through so many phases both physically and in his approach to the game. –David Rawnsley
Cole Ragans, LHP, North Florida Christian (Tallahassee, FL)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/190 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of draft date):18y, 6m
Commitment: Florida State
Projected Draft Round: 1S-3
Not many high school pitchers in this year’s draft class have been on the national scene for as long as Cole Ragans. The lean, super-projectable lefty is the latest high-end talent from North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, and he’s been seen plenty over the past three seasons by area scouts who were also in the market for former NFC stars Carson (fourth round, 2014, Cubs) and Cole (22nd round, 2015, Astros; now attending Florida State), and Sands.
While he was definitely a known entity prior to the event, Ragans announced his presence on the national landscape in June 2014 at the Junior National Showcase when he worked consistently in the 88-91 mph range and broke out a tight curveball with good depth. He continued to impress later that summer at East Coast Professional Showcase and various tournaments, including the 16u and 17u WWBA National Championships.
He followed that strong performance with another stellar summer circuit in 2015, including a trip to the Perfect Game All-American Classic. As one would expect, Ragans continued to fill out and add strength to his large, athletic frame, but there is still plenty of room for future physical projection and he possesses the lean, loose build and natural athleticism that scouts tend to covet in pitching prospects.
While the physical ingredients are all evident, there are still some questions about his fastball command. Ragans has made some slight mechanical changes to his delivery over the years, but he’s still able to create significant downhill plane and his heater is a real weapon when located down in the zone. However, at times throwing consistent strikes can be a challenge, and he’s had to battle through bouts of wildness this spring as well. Finding a consistent release point and syncing up all of the elements of his delivery will be paramount to his development, but he is such a good athlete that one would expect him to be able to make the necessary adjustments as he gets more experience.
With such a highly-projectable frame, it is easy to envision Ragans adding a few ticks to his fastball velocity as he continues to gain weight—which along with the current life and movement—would give him a plus pitch in his arsenal. Similarly, his curveball flashes above average potential and should continue to be a big weapon for him moving forward. At the end of the day, he presents teams with an intriguing package, and plenty of teams will be lining up for a young, projectable, athletic southpaw with two potentially above-average pitches. –Andrew Krause