Better late than never, right? The righthanded pitchers listed below comprise 5 of the top 8 prospects ranked on the College Big Board 1.0. If you’re a fan of a team picking in the top half of round one, these are five names to know forwards and backwards. We continue the countdown of college righthanded starting pitching prospects with the players ranked 5 through 2 (who will be number one??????)…after the jump.
5. Aaron Crow (Missouri/Fort Worth Cats)
Ah, synergy. Aaron Crow and Tanner Scheppers, ranked fifth and fourth among draft-eligible college righthanded starting pitchers on this list, are two players facing the same unique challenge this spring – maintaining (Crow) or elevating (Scheppers) their draft standing from a year ago while pitching for an independent league baseball team. Their regular season game schedules don’t begin until the middle of May, so finding time to impress scouts will be an issue for both young men. However, with plenty of bullpen sessions and specially arranged workouts for scouts set up as the weather begins to heat up.
Scouts will blaze a trail to Fort Worth to see Crow, and for good reason. His velocity will no doubt be watched very closely by front office types this spring. Remember, this time last year Aaron Crow was a good college pitcher who looked like he had the upside of a mid-rotation starter. A sudden huge spike in velocity changed everything. If that jump in velocity has survived Crow’s time away from pitching and scouting directors are sure he is healthy, Crow will go just as high in this year’s draft as he did last year.
Crow’s fastball sits between 92-96 MPH and has been clocked as high as 98. The fastball is a true plus pitch because it has above-average sink in addition to the great radar gun readings. Crow’s out pitch is a plus slider (83-85) that comes in on an extreme downward plane that eats up righthanded hitters. His third pitch, a changeup, is an offering that has gone from promising but raw to usable but still unrefined to emerging rapidly to above-average at present with plus potential. Scouts will flock to Fort Worth to get a closer look not only on the previously mentioned fastball, but also on this intriguing changeup of his. The move to independent baseball may actually help Crow out in this regard; scouts will want to see the changeup and will get plenty of opportunity during side sessions and arranged workouts. If Crow was still in the hyper-competitive world of college ball, there would be far less opportunity to showcase a pitch that is all but unnecessary at the level. In addition to the fastball, slider, and change, Crow also mixes in a really hard cutter that consistently clocks in the high 80s. The cut fastball works really well with men on base as it is most useful in getting groundballs.
So, to recap – if scouts approve of Crow’s changeup and are convinced he can maintain his velocity over the long haul (both in-game and over the course of a long season), then there appears to be no reason to downgrade his draft stock from last year. The only other factor that could give teams pause is Crow’s mechanics. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m far from an expert on pitching mechanics so take everything I say with that in mind. All I know is that I’ve heard too many scouts question Crow’s mechanics to ignore the topic – typically, smoky mechanics lead to arms going up in flames. However (and it’s a big however), Crow has stayed very healthy as an amateur while showing year after year that he is capable of handling heavy workloads.
4. Tanner Scheppers (Fresno State/St. Paul Saints)
Real pressure will be on Scheppers to become the most successful St. Paul Saint of all-time. Saints that have come before him include Kevin Millar, Rey Ordonez, JD Drew, Jack Morris, and Darryl Strawberry. Of the group, Millar and Ordonez were indy leaguers before getting noticed by big league clubs, Strawberry used the league as a springboard back to the bigs, and Morris simply used the league as . Drew’s time with St. Paul is the only real comparable situation to Scheppers, and you can be sure that the ex-Fresno State Bulldog would be satisfied if second turn at the draft worked out as well as Drew’s.
Scheppers ability to work off of his plus fastball is what makes his game work. The pitch has plus velocity (92-96), plus movement, and plus command. The rare arm strength Scheppers possesses allows him to power up with the fastball is what had scouts buzzing last spring. His best off-speed pitch has been called both a “power curve” and a slider; quite frankly, labeling it isn’t as important as understanding it’s a great pitch no matter the name. However, much like Crow before him, Scheppers had little need to throw a changeup at school. At best, the pitch can be called a work in progress at this point. A team would have to be sold on the development of that third pitch to go along with the fastball/hard breaking ball combination if they are to take him where his true talent level dictates.
Of course, there’s the whole stress fracture in the throwing shoulder thing that dropped him to the second round last spring. On this issue, we have a problem. This website is helpful in a lot of ways (at least I hope), but medical issues are often some of the trickiest bits of news to untangle fact from fiction. The latest news indicates that Scheppers is healthy (and, according to him, stronger than ever) heading into the season, but there won’t really be anybody outside of a team’s inner-circle of front office staffers who will be entirely sure one way or another.
3. Kyle Gibson (Missouri)
I know it’s a little weird to be continually comparing players on the list to other players on the list, but when it makes sense you’ve got to go with it. Ideal pitcher’s frame that is at once sturdy but with room to grow, plus slider, potential for a big jump in velocity his junior season…sounds like another pitcher who played with Missouri on the list, no? It would be foolhardy to ignore the similarities between Crow and Gibson at respective points in their development and if there is one thing we won’t stand for at The Baseball Draft Report it’s foolhardiness!
Fearless prediction on Gibson: the overabundance of college righthanders will push Gibson down draft boards in June. This will be a big mistake on the part of teams passing on the lanky righty. Gibson is the kind of pitcher that is easy to underrate – the high upside of a high school arm, but also the high floor of a dependable college guy. Gibson is as likely as any pitcher on this list to settle into a repertoire of three pitches that can be used with equal effectiveness in any situation. His fastball needs to see that velocity jump from where it currently sits (88-91) to where it is likely to end up (92-94) if he hopes to avoid being pushed down the board as predicted. Even without a high velocity fastball, Gibson’s plus slider (low-80s), potential well above-average change, and groundball tendencies assure him a spot in the top twenty picks in this year’s draft.
2. Alex White (North Carolina)
From the mock:
You’ve got to feel for White just a little bit and not just because there’s a chance he winds up playing in Pittsburgh. Not only is he a distant number two to Steve Strasburg in the best righthanded pitcher in the draft race, but he is also a pretty clear number two righthanded pitching prospect on his own college team. Matt Harvey, White’s studly North Carolina teammate, is considered to be the early favorite for the top spot in the 2010 draft. Alex White – baseball’s Susan Lucci.
If Strasburg is, well, Strasburg and Harvey is Strasburg Jr., then what does that make Alex White? Truthfully, I’m not sure what we should be calling him other than a darn good pitching prospect and future top five draft pick. A big, strong righthanded pitcher, Alex White stands alone as the best starboard thrower non-Strasburg division in the upcoming draft. Originally a Dodgers draft pick out of high school (413th overall), White has, if nothing else, the Logan White Seal of Approval™. His rumored asking price was somewhere between $850,000 and S1.4 million back in 2006, a pretty good chunk of change to be sure, but it’s still safe to say he made a wise fiscal decision by passing up the pros. Think about all of the good that came from White’s decision to pass on the Dodgers offer. By opting to bet on his talent, he wound up with three partially paid years at one of the nation’s finest universities. At Carolina, White has been able to enjoy the beautiful surrounding area (hard to beat being college-aged and living in Chapel Hill), play at a gorgeous renovated ballpark, and experience all of the, ahem, perks of being a top student-athlete at a southern college campus. To do that all while learning from a top notch coaching staff that has helped him continue his development towards becoming a high first rounder cashing a paycheck that could triple his original salary demands as a high schooler. Alex White: living proof that in these turbulent economic times, the best financial decision we can make is to invest in ourselves. The Baseball Draft Report: come for the baseball, stay for the life lessons…and crazy run-on sentences.
White’s sinking 2-seam fastball regularly registers in the low 90s. White’s straight but heavy 4-seam fastball comes in faster, as he is able to pump it up into the mid-90s. He fits in with many of the other players on this list because he partners up that fastball with the occasionally slurvy slider that is a true weapon. The slider sits in the low 80s and works best when it bears in on the hands of lefthanded hitters. White also throws a good splitter that helps him get both swings and misses and plenty of ground balls. There isn’t a whole lot to find fault in with his actual stuff and he has top of the rotation potential assuming good health.
To wrap things up, a quick tangent. One of my favorite games to play is “Pin the Tail on the Fastball.” Let me explain. First off, my radar gun is horrible. I mean, the thing is practically worthless. It was paid for by a former employer, so I can’t really complain, but I’ve got to be honest; the gun is more of a toy than an actual piece of scouting equipment. A little research shows that my model retails for about 1/5th the cost of one of the professional guns, and, surprise, surprise, it works about 1/5th as well as a quality gun does too – you pay for what you get, right?. Anyway, I’ve seen White pitch almost a dozen times over the years, but my personal results are so all over the place that I’ve had a heck of a time pinning down his velocity with any kind of precision. Even with quality guns, it’s not uncommon to hear stories about a dozen different scouts writing up scouting reports detailing a dozen different fastball readings. Some scouting reports are only based off of one start; I’m not passing judgment on the validity of such reports, but there are a lot of factors at play that can throw off a pitcher’s velocity on a given day (weather, time of year, prior workload, nagging injuries, conditioning…the list goes on). Beyond that, some scouting reports don’t distinguish the difference between the velocity where a pitcher sits and where a pitcher peaks. Another difference is the simple mislabeling of a 2-seam fastball and a 4-seam fastball; this is an issue I’ve seen with White specifically in the past. Long story short, there are a lot of conflicting reports on amateur pitchers’ fastball speed readings.