Pitchers and Catchers are set to report to Spring Training, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t already quality baseball on the fields of the Cactus League. The college baseball season is finishing its opening weekend, including tournaments on ball fields that will soon play host to the biggest stars in the MLB.
While you still have to wait to see your favorite players, there are some guys worth noting from the games I was able to put eyes on this weekend. Most real draft prospects came from Oregon State and Michigan state, but I want to focus on the players from Michigan State given I have another full week of watching Oregon State.
The two big names for the Spartans are leadoff hitter, and left fielder, Cam Gibson, and Catcher/Designated Hitter, Blaise Salter.
Salter has little to no chance of sticking behind the plate after he gets drafted, as his 6’5”, 265 lbs. frame is just too big. His lateral quickness is sub par and his glove is not soft enough to justify staying at the position. Salter will likely move to first baser where his bat will actually play pretty well. He jumped on a change against Oregon State that not only left the yard, but actually carried clear out of the stadium and into the parking lot. His bat is long through the zone, so he won’t hit for much average, and he was clocked at a painfully slow 4.85 to first base.
While right-handed power is a precious commodity in today’s game, Salter will probably not be a very high pick given his positional limitations and the fact he is a senior. He has been mentioned on some pre-season All-American lists, and could have a very good year, but he projects as an organizational depth guy who will only make the climb to the big leagues if his power continues to shine through the minors.
The more interesting draft prospect is Kirk Gibson’s son, Cam Gibson. Gibson is a hard player to get a good feel for. He does not have elite defensive skills, he is pretty well locked in as a left fielder with just an average arm, but he could be average to above-average at the position. His speed is a true 50 grade, but he has very good instincts on the bases and plays more like a 55+ speed guy. At the plate is where he is really unique.
He is a left-handed batter who seems to be mostly arms and wrists as his hips clear the zone pretty early, but has surprising bat control given the swing. He also shows a good ability to hit the ball with some power to all fields. He can hit a few home runs, but projects more as a doubles guy. When he falls into a two strike count, he gets a little lower in his stance and opens up a bit more, focusing more on bat control and contact. He should be able to hit for a decent average and won’t strike out much at any level, but when he does he smashes his bat into his helmet. While watching Gibson, you get the same feeling you get watching guys like Hunter Pence and Eric Byrnes with the intensity of his dad. His game isn’t pretty, but he is productive and a scrappy ballplayer.
A good season could see Gibson be a top five round pick, a poor season could land him in the 10-15 round range, but he should be in the minors by July and his baseball IQ and motor will have to carry him. I would not be surprised to see him become a serviceable big leaguer in time.
Michigan State is not a school that typically gets a lot of attention on the national stage, in fact the Big Ten is a major conference that largely flies under the radar, but there will be a few Spartans drafted come June, and Salter and Gibson just might open some eyes once they get to pro ball.