The next player in our draft series may be the polar opposite of Kyle Russell. Julio Borbon might be the only legitimate centerfield prospect at the top of the draft. A Dominican Republic native, Borbon had a big freshman season to catch scouts' attention, hitting .350 for the year. His sophomore season was an even better encore, as Borbon upped his average while only striking out fifteen times over 235 at bats, good for a rate of 15.7 at bats per K! It was his time on Team USA, however, that put Borbon's stock in the top half of round one. Here, Borbon showed prowess with the wood bat, hitting .364 while leading the team in hits, triples and stolen bases (15). Most impressively, Borbon showed pop for the first time, clubbing four homers over the 31 game summer tour.
Many scouts were anxious to see if the power would carry over this year. Scott Ebert notes that some scouts expect Borbon to approach twenty homers annually as a big leaguer. Far from just a slap hitter, Borbon is an ideal combination of size (6'1 190), speed, and extra base power. Borbon's speed also plays up his defense, as some scouts believe he could be a Gold Glove winner in the pros. Considered a quality leadoff candidate, Borbon doesn't have a great walk rate, but the strike out rate and high averages suggest that he hasn't had to refine this skill in college. His swing appears to be well suited for the pro game, as his power numbers and average improved with the wood bat on Team USA.
Unfortunately for Borbon, his junior year has been marred by an injury he is just now getting over. His average has slowly risen, up to .304, and he's slugging .500 this year, with four triples and two homers. His stolen base attempts are down this year, likely attributable to his leg injury. He's still not striking out much, only 11 times in 102 ABs, and was only responsible for one of David Price's 14 K's in their series two weekends ago.
When you go after Borbon, you are buying into his projection. Borbon's junior season deserves a mulligan for the injury, and his numbers from his junior year and summer season are just too good to ignore. Borbon displayed he could be patient if need be, walking in 15% of his Team USA plate appearances. To date, contact has come too easy for him to further develop this skill. His speed is also evident in his junior year, with 26 steals in 34 attempts. If the power keeps coming, he'll have all the tools you look for in a centerfielder. His game is very raw, and he may be a late bloomer, but with the success of many high contact speedsters with good power, ala Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez, make Borbon's skill set more intriguing. It's way too early to give him that high of praise, but his upside is rare for a college pick.
Colorado continues to struggle with finding centerfielders, and only have one pure centerfielder in the minors. As much ground as Colorado outfielders are required to cover, it makes sense to value hitters that have centerfield capabilities. If either Borbon or Fowler developed enough pop for a corner position, the Rockies would have the perfect blend of speed, defense, and offense to play in their ballpark. At the least, Colorado has got to get more athletic with their outfield prospects. Borbon may take longer than most college prospects, and could start as low as Casper, but his Team USA season suggests a budding star, and with the Rockies lacking depth in center, the two could be a good match. Despite his injury and struggles upon returning, Baseball America has not softened their stance on his prospects in the top half of round one.
I'm not going to try and argue against Borbon. He's quite high on my personal draft list for the Rockies (higher than the two we've already debated) and you might have already guessed that after I profiled him earlier in the year. The only problem I have with him is his arm strength for center field, but there are too many positives with him that that particular weakness can be overlooked.
David's Last Take
Very well, according to Baseball America's mid season draft rankings, Borbon should be taken within the first 10-12 picks, so he likely will be on the board when the Rockies pick. Borbon may be pushed slow, though recent history suggests that Borbon, a three year college starter, could play full season ball upon signing, likely in Asheville in deference to Fowler. He has all the tools to be a successful major leaguer, but to be a star, the plate patience and power will have to continue to improve, with his bat control and athleticism, I'm not going to be one to bet against him.
Where does Borbon slot in our draft board?
This poll is closed
Ahead of Detwiler and Russell
Between Detwiler and Russell
Behind Detwiler and Russell