In part three of the BluGrass Baseball Top Prospects series I’ll look at the players from Kentucky who were ranked as top prospects prior to the 2009 draft. These players are making their professional debuts in 2009 and will likely factor in somewhere on their organization’s top 30 list following the season. I’ve included the player’s ranking on the Baseball America top draft prospects list if he was included on that list before the draft.
- (37) James Paxton — LHP University of Kentucky — Toronto Blue Jays (1s) — Paxton is likely the only unsigned player from Kentucky who will still sign a professional contract. After being selected in the first supplemental round by the Toronto Blue Jays, Paxton and his adviser, super-agent Scott Boras, are just looking for the right dollar amount. His leverage is minimal though, so Paxton will likely sign prior to the Aug. 17 deadline. After an up-and-down junior season Paxton entered the draft as one of the top left-handed pitchers on the board. James featured a 93-94 mph fastball that peaked at 97 mph and an above-average curveball. Paxton’s performance at UK didn’t match his pure talent, but his young age (21) gives Toronto more reason to hope his best baseball is ahead of him.
- (83) Justin Marks — LHP University of Louisville — Oakland Athletics (3) — Marks is your stereotypical “crafty lefty.” According to BA he doesn’t feature a single overpowering pitch but grades out as average to above-average on each of his four pitches and boasts solid command. Justin was extremely consistent at Louisville, pitching from the weekend rotation since his freshman season in 2007. Marks went to Oakland in the third round, exactly where BA predicted he would fall. He is in the right organization as Oakland often values performance on a higher level than many organizations that favor strong tools in their philosophy. At the very least Marks should have a future in a big league bullpen as a valuable lefty reliever.
- (85) Chris Dominguez — 3B University of Louisville — San Francisco Giants (3) — Baseball America ranked Dominguez two spots behind teammate Justin Marks on its top 200 draft prospects list, but Chris was drafted six spots ahead of his teammate. BA graded both players as third-round talents. Dominguez has featured “light-tower” power throughout his college career, but has had trouble adjusting to more advanced pitching. Chris won the home-run race in the New England Collegiate League (2006), Big East (2008), Cape Cod League (2008) and Big East (2009). There’s no question about Dominguez’s ability to hit a fastball, but his frequency to chase breaking balls was a major question entering the draft. During the UK/UofL baseball game in Louisville this spring several members of the UofL media relations staff had a bet as to how many fastballs Dominguez would even see in the game due to his reputation. Everyone knows his weakness, so Dominguez will have plenty of opportunity to adjust to professional pitching early and fulfill the promise of his extraordinary talent. Dominguez already has six home runs in 18 pro games.