Most of the time when I do these profiles, it's on guys that I have "video" scouted or otherwise not seen in person. This year, though, a new job brought me right up close to a bona fide draft prospect in George Ranch outfielder Stone Garrett.
Watching him through the last 10 or so games has been an experience. I've been wowed by his athleticism, his bat speed, the way the ball can sound coming off his bat and his speed on the bases. But, I've also swung the other way, questioning his hit tool, his batting mechanics and his arm in the outfield.
In that process, I realized how I was going through many of the struggles we hear from those in the scouting profession. In Dollar Sign On The Muscle, author Kevin Kerrane talks about "negative" scouting, where it's much easier to knock a player down for his flaws than appreciate what he does well.
I'd gone through the same thing with Garrett. Realizing this made me re-evaluate what I'd seen and look at his future in different ways. I still may be too close to the source and still may not be seeing the whole picture, but I feel more confident in what I'm saying about Garrett.
So, let's do this thing. What do you need to know about the big outfielder?
Here's how I started a feature story on Garrett for this weekend's edition of the Fort Bend Herald:
His swing is a thing of elegant violence.
He glides around the bases with a suddenness that belies his size. He covers ground in the outfield effortlessly. He has a flair for the big moments with an unpracticed theatricality, showcasing unbridled emotions and prodigious power.
In short, watching Stone Garrett play baseball is a lot of fun.
Hyperbole much? Yeah, that's how I roll.
Garrett is a 6-foot-2, 195 pound outfielder who was clocked at 6.47 in the 60-yard dash by Perfect Game at their showcase event at Petco Park last summer. He's got good arm strength and excellent range in the outfield. As his frame suggests, he's strong with plenty of power when he makes contact.
In that respect, he reminds me of a taller Delino DeShields, Jr., with developed forearms that scream power potential. The ball also sounds differently coming off his bat when he's locked in. You can see almost immediately when watching him play why he's special.
But, there are also flaws. He doesn't engage his lower half when he's hitting and will sometimes make bad contact on pitches he reaches for away. His arm is strong enough to play right field, where he was bumped in favor of junior Alex Shaver, an Oklahoma State commit who has better speed (imagine how fast Shaver is for a second).
The problem with his arm is it's not always accurate. While he's got the strength to throw it on a line, when he's had opportunities to show it off in games, he's woefully missed the mark.
None of those are deal-breakers, though. They can both be improved with coaching. Plus, Garrett also possesses a couple baseball skills also useful to teams. He's got a great eye at the plate and runs the bases well.
In a game earlier this season, Garrett stole two bases without a throw. That speaks to his speed, yes, but also to the jumps he was consistently getting. He's gone first to third on a number of shallow hits to the outfield, thanks to his base running instincts.
At the plate, a game rarely goes by without Garrett taking a walk. According to his coach, he's an aggressive hitter and still swings at some bad pitches outside the strike zone. Call those youthful indiscretions (or signs of contact problems, but we'll get to that in a minute). But, for the most part, Garrett lays off enough pitches to take a walk when he needs to.
Though I'm not sure how much it matters, from what I've seen, Garrett is also a pretty good leader. He's constantly talking to his teammates, doesn't get over-emotional in games and sets the tone for his high school team.
As the year has unfolded, though, his biggest flaw developed. Garrett doesn't seem to make consistent enough contact against high school pitching. This is a problem. Of course, because he's the highest profile player on a very good team, Garrett sees a ton of offspeed stuff now and very few pitches in on the inner half of the plate.
But, after watching him a handful of times, if I had to put a future grade on his hit tool, it'd be a 50 at the high end and a 40 at the low. That's why Garrett hasn't really been ranked as one of the top 100 players heading into the June draft.
It's also why I think his best baseball is ahead of him. Two paths lie before the talented Mr. Garrett. He can go to college, let Wayne Graham and possibly Lance Berkman develop that hit tool and become a much higher drafted player (think Austin Wilson, if he hadn't gone to Stanford). Or, he can sign for less to play professionally, go to the right organization and develop there. He's the kind of player who could absolutely outperform higher-drafted guys based on his tools, but who carries enough risk to make teams shy away from him early.
The comp I've come back to lately with Garrett is George Springer. Subsequently, you could hang a Mike Cameron comp on him as a ceiling, too. Garrett runs well, has a knack for stealing bases and good power. If he can combine all of those, yet never improves on his hit tool, that's the kind of player he becomes.
He's a high school player, so there's always more of a risk. He doesn't have much filling out to do, so he's not adding dramatic power. If he can't put things together or can never make solid contact, Garrett could end up like another Astros draftee: Jay Austin. Super athletic, good tools but never able to put them together on the field.
The most troubling thing to me has been his lack of ability to consistently drive the ball in high school games. The tools are there, but contact issues at this level don't set his floor particularly high. If we're talking lowest percentage big-league outlook, maybe he turns into Michael Taylor?
Projected draft range
Third to fifth round
Will he sign?
My sense is that he will. Of course, he's also got a scholarship at a great baseball school in Rice and needs some development. So, a team won't be able to go below slot and still get him to sign.