Scouting The Mississippi State Bulldogs

Bulldogs top draft prospect RF Hunter Renfroe

Kiley brings us scouting notes on the whole Mississippi St. team, led by likely 2013 draft 1st rounder, junior RF Hunter Renfroe, along with an update on top dual-sport recruit from Florida's Manatee HS, quarterback/outfielder Cord Sandberg.

I recently saw two games of the Mississippi State/Auburn series and, like with my recent LSU article, I wanted to do a full breakdown of the players I saw from the Bulldogs this weekend.

- The headliner of this crop of talent is, without a doubt, right fielder Hunter Renfroe. The 6'1, 215 pound junior was a known talent to area scouts but wasn't a big name on a national basis until this spring. Renfroe had a breakout of sorts in the Cal Ripken college summer league but that league isn't as heavily scouted as the Cape or Team USA. Renfroe is a great athlete that has hit 98 mph on the mound in relief and caught some in the past but he lacked the secondary pitches and command to stick on the mound longterm and didn't show the feel to catch to keep his bat out of the lineup to work on his receiving. Renfroe hadn't hit well in games until this season due to a loose approach at the plate where he couldn't lay off breaking balls low and away, but he's made that adjustment this year. Typically, power-based athletes take a little longer to develop and Renfroe played at a small high school and didn't hit the national showcase circuit a lot, so his level of competition along with multi-positional and multi-sport (football, track and basketball in high school) background slowed his development a bit.

While I haven't had it confirmed, there is also a story floating around that Renfroe chased down a deer on foot. There is more concrete evidence he's been clocked in the 6.6s in the 60 yard dash recently, indicative of 60 speed. He's a 55 runner for me (on the 20-80 scouting scale where 50 is major league average) once he gets going, so those times don't surprise me, though his first step out of the box is a little slow at times. Renfroe also has a plus arm (60) in right field, as you'd assume given his exploits on the mound and he's got a chance to be an above average defender in right field. His raw power displays in batting practice are impressive, with 55 raw power and there's actually more to be squeezed out of his swing if he wanted to sacrifice some contact ability. I wouldn't recommend he do that, as his hands load and width of his feet are ideal to hit for both contact and power.

The only real swing flaw I found is when Renfroe gets a little overeager in games, his front hip will open early and he'll shift his weight too fast, ending with his back foot off the ground at contact, usually leading to weaker contact. That's fairly easy to fix with and may just be something he was doing in the games that I saw because his .410/.488/.827 with 14 homers and 12 doubles in 139 AB performance this spring has been a revelation. He's a good enough athlete to be off-balanced and fooled on a pitch but still make contact, though that will become more of a problem as he faces more advanced pitching in the upper minors. There's bat control, some athleticism and bat speed to his swing to where I can give him above average (55) or better grades for all five tools (hit, power, speed, defense and arm). This is a rare talent to be on a college campus as those kinds of tools normally sign out of high school. I'm working on a mock draft to come out later, but the club I've heard mentioned most with Renfroe is the Mets at #11 overall. Pick #11 is likely Renfroe's high-water mark, but he should fit comfortably in the first round and there were a number of high level scouts were in Starkville to scout him when I was there.

- Another guy that's well-known to scouts after playing for Team USA this summer is junior SS Adam Frazier. He doesn't wow you withe huge tools as I graded out his raw power as a 30 on the 20-80 scale and he's a fringe-average runner that lacks the lateral quickness to stick long-term at shortstop. His arm is average and his hands and footwork are above average, so Frazier profiles as a second baseman or more likely a utility guy. He has a simple, contact-oriented stroke that sprays balls all over the field and I have him graded out as a 6th-10th round prospect that may return for his senior year if he doesn't like the bonus he's in line for.

- Wes Rea is a guy that's a lot of fun to watch in batting practice but makes you wonder if the massive first basemen will be able to make enough contact to get to his power in the pros. The 6'5, 275 pound redshirt sophomore that is draft eligible but likely will come back for another year and possibly two in Starkville. Rea has real power that above average to his pull side, but he's pretty one-dimensional. There's some swing and miss to his dead-red fastball approach and a late bat wrap lengthens his bat path even more than his longer arms already do. He's a power hitter that will put up some numbers in the low minors but will probably stall in the upper minors as he'll struggle to make enough contact against advanced pitching.

- Among the other draft-eligible guys of some interest to scouts are RHP Ben Bracewell, OF Demarcus Henderson, LHP Luis Pollorena, RHP Kendall Graveman and RHP Evan Mitchell. I didn't see a couple of these players, but I'm told that Bracewell has been up to 93 mph out of the bullpen and Graveman has a heavy 88-90 mph sinker and three pitches. Graveman is a solid senior sign and Bracewell sounds likely to return to campus . Henderson is another junior that's likely to return to the Bulldogs next season as he has a nice swing but doesn't quite have the raw tools to demand a big bonus. I saw Pollorena start the first game of the series and sit 88-90 mph with a changeup that was above average, but the little lefty didn't show any kind of usable breaking ball. I'm told Mitchell has been up to 94 mph out of the pen, though his 23 walks in 20 innings this spring tells most of the story.

- There are also a few underclassmen that scouts have interest in for future drafts, all sophomores for next year's draft: RHP Brandon Woodruff, RHP Jonathan Holder and LHP Jacob Lindgren. I'm told Woodruff was hitting 95 mph early in the spring but then his velo dipped into the mid-80's before going on the shelf. Scouts have told me he's shown power stuff and could be an early-round pick in 2014 if he's healthy. Holder has touched 94 mph out of the pen but sat 89-91 with an average slow curveball at 72-75 with some effort to his delivery. I saw Lindgren briefly and the lefty was 87-90 mph with occasional above average cut to his fastball but his 81-82 mph slider and 76-78 mph changeup were both fringy at best.

There are three Bulldog high school recruits with a higher level of professional potential from what I've been able to gather. The biggest name is Cord Sandberg, a guy local to me at Bradenton's Manatee HS, just south of the Tampa area. He's a dual-sport recruit as a dual-threat quarterback and center fielder that projects more as a left fielder as a pro. I wrote more about his situation and his tools here. The other recruits worth noting are California prep C Gavin Collins who has advanced catch-and-throw skills but his bat is still coming along. I'm told projectable 6'5 Tennessee prep RHP Dakota Hudson has been working 89-92 and hitting 93 this spring and some teams are interested in drafting/signing him if he's open to a low-to-mid six figure bonus.

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