Last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Big Ten Baseball Tournament at Huntington Park in Columbus Ohio and I want to send a big thank you to Chris Webb of Buckeye State Baseball on Fox Sports Ohio for the media credential. While the conference is down slightly and lacking the overall sexiness of the SEC, ACC, PAC 10 or the Big 12, the Big Ten Tournament still offered plenty looks at professional talent.
Michigan State was the best team in the conference for most of the season, compiling a 36-21 overall record. With just a 15-9 conference record however, they shared the regular season title with Illinois. In the tournament, Illinois used quality pitching and timely hitting to take down the Spartans and earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The Fighting Illini used just 4 pitchers in 3 games, going through Ohio State, and Michigan State twice, while Spartan squad simply ran out of arms (using seven different pitchers in the final game alone).
Illinois will be the Big Ten's lone representative in the NCAA tournament and while the effect of that representation on recruiting may be minimal, it can certainly only help. For their 2011 class the Fighting Illini inked outfielder Charlie Tilson a potential first round pick in 2011. The draft is unpredictable and while I don't anticipate this scenario, it's conceivable that bonus demands could drive a talent like Tilson into the 5-10 round range and ultimately to Champaign.
Below is a look at just a few of the professional prospects that displayed their talents this weekend.
Willy Argo - CF - Illinois - Jr. Bats: R Throws: R. 6'1" 215. Last Drafted: 2008 - Arizona Diamondbacks (49th Round).
Argo hit .355 with 12 HR in route to a Freshman All-American season in 2009 and while he hasn't been able to replicate those power numbers, he did steal a school record 41 bags as a sophomore in 2010. Argo is hitting a modest .286/.397/.401 this season with 25 stolen bases. A center fielder, Argo reads the ball well, shows excellent range with an average arm. Entering the 2010 season, I had Argo pegged as a player set to come off the board in the first five rounds. While the tools are still there, the off year at the plate has probably hurt his stock.
Adam Davis - C - Illinois - Jr. Bats: R Thows: R. 6'0" 215. Last Drafted: Never.
The 3-hole hitter for the Fighting Illini, Davis is a free swinger at the plate who could stand to be a little more patient as he's walked just 7 times this season. He sits on top of the plate and uses his quick hands to spray line drives to all fields. Behind the dish is where Davis really shines. Consistently posting pop times in the 1.9 range, Davis uses his arm to deter would be base stealers by aggressively throwing to all bases. Though not a burner by any means, Davis does have above average speed for a catcher. A Second Team All-Big Ten selection, Davis may have opened some eyes this weekend with the increased exposure of the tournament on his way to earning the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player honor.
Jeff Holm - 1B - Michigan State - Sr. Bats: L Throws: L. 6'3" 210. Last Drafted: Never.
Named the Big Ten Player of the Year, Holm's senior campaign was an exclamation point an already decorated amateur career. A four year starter for the Spartans, Holm owns a .346 average, .411 on base percentage and .500 slugging for his career. Holm displays good bat control within the zone and has demonstrated an ability to hit left handed pitching. Though faster and more athletic than most first basemen, I'd rate his overall speed at below average but he has the ability to be plus defender with a plus arm. Holm could be the first Big Ten player selected after Alex Dickerson thanks to a very poor season by draft eligible sophomore shortstop Derek Dennis (Michigan).
Justin Gominsky - RF - Minnesota - Jr. Bats: R Throws: R. 6'4" 185. Last Drafted: Never.
Gominsky is an athletic toolsy outfielder who's only weak tool at the moment appears to be his power, though he has the frame to develop in that area. Like Willy Argo, Gominsky was a Freshman All-American but he suffered a knee injury as a sophomore that caused him to miss most of the season. A right fielder for the Gophers, I'd rate his arm as average for the professional level but it would play in center where I feel he profiles as a better fit because of his athleticism. In the small sample that I witnessed, Gominsky successfully stretched two singles into doubles that can be accredited to his hustle and instinct.
Josh Desze - RHP/1B - Ohio State - Fr. Bats: R Throws: R. 6'5" 215. Last Drafted: 2010 - New York Yankees (28th Round).
Aside from leading the Bucks in hitting (.332/.427/.472), Desze posesses the most electric arm in the conference. Sitting comfortably in the mid 90s while serving as the Buckeye closer, Desze showed three different offerings this weekend. The aforementioned fastball is plus, and has reportedly touched triple digits this season although he has little to no command of the pitch due to a lack of follow through and an inability to repeat his delivery. The slurvey curveball is a weak pitch both in style and structure. Desze shows the pitch way too early out of a different arm slot, making the pitch easy to recognize. He also threw a change up in between innings but I didn't recognize that one was thrown in the game. The pure electricity coming out of this kid's right arm could make him a potential high draft pick in 2013.
Kevin Plawecki - PUR - C - So. A career .342 hitter who saw his power numbers dip a little with the new bats this season. Contact hitter who has only struck out 21 times in two seasons.
Torsten Boss - MSU - 3B - So. Great left-handed stroke, a little weak with the glove. Will rival Plawecki as top Big Ten professional prospect in 2012.
A.J. Pettersen - MIN - SS - Jr. Slick fielding shortstop and lead off man, but at 5'8" with a fringe arm, he profiles better as a second basemen.
Josh Parr - ILL - SS - Jr. Like Peterson, Parr's glove makes you stop to take notice. Not as gifted at the plate as his younger brother Justin who served as the team's DH.