2012 Draft: Five college players on the rise

Central Florida's D.J. Hicks is being compared to Adam Dunn because of his size and power. (Ted Hutton/Sun-Sentinel)

The 2012 MLB amateur draft is just a couple of weeks away. With the college regular season winding down, it’s time to take a look at another five players who have elevated their stock this year with great seasons and improvements in their games.

Andrew Barbosa, LHP, South Florida

Barbosa, a 6’-8”, 235-pound left-hander has been kind of flying under the radar for most of the season. Even though he has put together one of the more dominant seasons by a pitcher, he hasn’t been getting much attention draft wise. At 24, his age may be playing a factor as scouts may not be able to get a good read on a player who is overpowering players who are three, four and even five years younger than him. Whatever the case, the senior is 7-4 through 13 starts with a 2.17 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 98 K/19 BB over 78.2 innings. He ranks among the nation’s leaders in strikeouts, WHIP, ERA, strikeouts-per-nine innings and is holding opponents to a miniscule .141 batting average.

Barbosa has been drafted twice, both times by the San Francisco Giants. He admitted he wasn’t ready for the pros both times, physically and mentally. He had to walk-on at South Florida after playing two season at South Florida Community College. He had to undergo Tommy John surgery just two starts into the 2011 season. He owns a deceptive, plus change-up that he uses as his out pitch. His fastball sits in the 88-90 mph range and his control is pinpoint. His ability to overcome adversity to remain one of the better pitchers in the country is an intangible that can’t be quantified come draft day.

Danny Poma, OF, Hofstra

With the new CBA rules that put a limit on bonuses that can be given out to a team’s draft picks in the first 10 rounds, college players could benefit greatly this year. Hofstra outfielder Poma is one of those players who could hear his name called a lot sooner than in years past. One of the most exciting players in the country, he is hitting .450 with 73 runs, 31 doubles, seven home runs, 46 RBI. 25 stolen bases and a 1.213 OPS through 50 games. He leads the nation in doubles, runs, hits and ranks second in batting average. At 6’-1″ and 210 pounds, he also runs a 6.6/60 and is a plus-defender with an outstanding arm. He went 6-for-6 against NYIT on April 10, and has 16 three-hit games on the year. He also has a tremendous approach at the plate, drawing 20 walks to just 13 strikeouts on the season. Hit .382 last season, with 16 doubles, 28 RBI and 20 stolen bases over 47 games.

Jayce Boyd, 1B, Florida State

Boyd is a natural hitter whose bat alone should get him drafted high. However, he also happens to be an excellent defensive first baseman with his soft hands, athleticism and instincts. Through 51 games, he is hitting .390 with 19 doubles, three home runs, 54 RBI and a .978 OPS. Don’t let the power numbers fool you, Boyd has some serious power in his bat. At 6’-3” and 200 pounds, he generates raw power to all fields while still maintaining a a very good contact rate as he has only struck out 20 times on the season. He has recorded a hit in 40 of his 51 games, and has reached base safely in 46. Over his 180 career games, including this season, he is hitting .351 with 51 doubles, 19 home runs, 153 RBI, 22 stolen bases and a .950 OPS.

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Jamodrick McGruder, 2B, Texas Tech

At 5’-7” and 170 pounds, McGruder is pound-for-pound one of the best players in the country. A slick defender with outstanding range and soft hands, he also excels at the plate. Through 50 games, he is hitting .374 with 52 runs, six doubles, eight triples, 23 RBI and is second in the nation in stolen bases with 37. His 45 walks also puts him among the leaders, as well as his .515 OBP. He had a recent 16-game stretch in which he went 30-for-68 (.441) with 20 runs, four doubles, five triples, 12 RBI and 10 stolen bases. Over his 147 career games, he is hitting .330 with 15 doubles, 15 triples, 10 home runs, 84 RBI, 88 stolen bases and a .473 OBP. High energy, confident player with the game to back it up.

D.J. Hicks, 1B, UCF

At 6’-5” and 250 pounds, the left-handed hitting Hicks is one of the best power bats in the draft. On the season, he is hitting .323 with 11 doubles, 11 home runs, 65 RBI and a .992 OPS. As a junior in 2011, he hit .351 with 14 home runs, 66 RBI and a 1.011 OPS over 60 games. There are a lot of comparisons to Adam Dunn with Hicks. His size, power from the left side and ability to draw a ton of walks (46 on the season) are very similar to the Big Donkey. Not a great defender, but should be able to hold his own at the next level. Also doesn’t have a lot of speed, but doesn’t need it with his bat and the position he plays. Has failed to reach base in only four of his 52 games this season. Over his 159 career games, is hitting .321 with 33 home runs, 166 RBI and 104 walks.

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