I'll be honest here: I had no idea who the Mets' fourth-round choice, Hawaiian prep shortstop Branden Kaupe was going into the draft. I felt better when Jim Callis admitted that he had no idea who Kaupe was either. I didn't expect that to happen until round six or seven or so, but the new rules seem to have changed things somewhat.
Two things stand out about Branden Kaupe right off the bat. One, he is short. Very short. Standing just 5-foot-7, Kaupe is about as short a player as you'll see on a professional baseball diamond. The other thing you'll notice is he's fast. Very, very fast. He runs a 6.43 60-yard dash, which is plus speed, maybe even plus-plus. I believe he is instantly the fastest guy in the Mets organization. He combines that with a solid build, which does provide him with some strength. He looks every bit the athlete he is.
At the plate, the switch-hitter (the swing looked pretty natural from both sides) definitely has some things to work on. That strength gives him well above average batspeed, and he's quite capable of driving balls into the gaps, at least . So there's definitely promise to work with here. But the swing might cause him problems. First, it's a flat swing path and he doesn't have long arms to leverage the ball out of the park, so I wouldn't expect Kaupe to provide anything more than doubles power. Second, I question how well he'll hit for contact as a pro with his swing. He has a very deep hand load, which adds length to it, he wraps the barrel of the bat behind his head such that it trails his hands when he swings, and he overstrides which messes with his balance (this also makes it more difficult for him to drive the ball). That said, he does not appear to have had any trouble making contact thus far--he didn't strike out once in 2012.
And those aren't the only questions concerning Kaupe's game. He lives on Maui, which isn't exactly a baseball hotbed, so the competition he's facing is probably substandard. Second, he does not figure to be a shortstop going forward. In fact, the Mets have already told him this. While he has the speed and arm for the position, the other skills are just a little lacking for a shortstop, pushing him across the bag to second.
The Mets selected him this early in part because they liked him, but also in part because he was more likely to sign a pre-draft deal. His commitment was only to Central Arizona Community College, and he was considered signable before the 10th round. Regardless of that, there's some definite potential for Kaupe to develop into a top-of-the-lineup catalyst who can play solid defense at second, but he probably has a long way to go. I like him.
Edit: I was alerted last night that I had an improper assessment of Kaupe's defense. What's now posted is more accurate.