Josh Phegley doesn’t deserve all the fun, does he? Time to give a little bit of love to the three left behinds in yesterday’s second to last (thankfully) top college catching prospect tournament or whatever the heck I’ve been calling it. Anyway, the losers yesterday were Tommy Medica, Justin Dalles, and Travis Tartamella. In no particular order, here are three college catching prospects that I think will be among the first ten or so best in the 2009 Rule 4 Draft…
It’s been a while since we started this thing up, so take a minute to check out a link or two to see what the heck we’re doing here – Part I and Part II. Who is the best draft-eligible college catcher in all the land? We’re going to find out tournament-style! Next up, the four participants facing off in our very special Joe Mauer Regional…
Joe Mauer Regional
1. Josh Phegley
4. Travis Tartamella
2. Tommy Medica
3. Justin Dalles
No suspense here, I’m sorry to report. After upsets in the first two regionals (Stock and Fleury), Josh Phegley blows away all comers here in the Joe Mauer Regional. It’s no surprise, really, as many publications have Phegley safely ensconced as one of the top two college catchers in all the land and a great bet to be off the board by the end of round two. We’ll talk about the other three names at a later date (I like Dalles over Medica, injury or not, by the way), but for now we’ll shine the prospect spotlight on the champ.
I’m excited for June 9 for all sorts of reasons. There are plenty of draft storylines that deserve more press coverage than they’ll inevitably get, but I hope the eventual destination of Josh Phegley gets a little bit of love come draft day. By the numbers, Phegley is truly a standout amongst a group of less than stellar college bats. There is no denying this man’s college production. So where will he land and when? Teams that place a greater importance on statistical performance will be hard pressed to find a better college prospect than Indiana’s star backstop. His numbers both in and out of context are staggering —> .438/.507/.746 with a 34/22 walk to strikeout ratio his sophomore year and .383/.485/.688 with 29 walks to 23 strikeouts so far this year, all while playing home games in a neutral park in the chilly north. To find fault in Phegley’s collegiate numbers is to complain about a stray splatter on a Jackson Pollock.
Phegley’s production has been top notch, but what about his projection? This is where things get more complicated. There are doubts surrounding his defense, his pro power potential, and his bat speed. To be fair, no college hitting prospect this side of Rich Poythress (though even he gets dinged for being limited to first defensively) comes without warts, but the fact that Phegley’s detractors knock his bat so severely is telling. My quick and dirty notes from watching his swing over a few games earlier this season:
- Pronounced crouch (a little like Aaron Rowand’s), good leverage and balance
- Circles bat pre-swing as timing mechanism; keeping hands high is key – when they drop, so does his power
- Uneven feet with his back leg staggered back in box, impressive in the way his lower half moves in sync with the rest of his body during setup and follow through
- Lets ball get unusually deep, but his wrists (more strong than quick) help his plate coverage – Phegley can afford to wait and wait and wait because, at worst, he has a knack for fouling balls off until he gets one he can drive
- Swing gets knocked for being long, but I saw it level and surprisingly compact and efficient; the helicopter finish may slow down the swing enough to give certain teams pause
I’d agree with a scout that questions Phegley’s future power potential as his swing is closer to that of a player with consistent line drive, gap power. I’m not sure I’d worry as much about a slow bat, but I do think some tweaks (namely toning down the finish a smidge) could help him shave some time off his swing and perhaps unleash a little bit of the power he loses with his level, one-plane swing.
Phegley’s defense is a topic that has generated plenty of discussion in scouting circles because, well, scouts love talking about an otherwise solid player’s glaring deficiency. Phegley’s defensive tools are solid as he possesses an average to above-average throwing arm with a quick release, but his shoddy footwork and consistent struggles blocking balls in the dirt keep his present defensive grade below-average.
Despite the fact that many of the specific concerns about his defense are valid, he’ll stick behind the plate as a professional. The aforementioned tools are there for Phegley to be an average defensive player and with a bat like his that should be enough. Picture an offense-first, slightly below-average to barely average defender behind the dish. A peak that looks a little something like Michael Barrett’s (2004-2006) with much better plate discipline (one of Phegley’s biggest and most unique strengths) sounds like a reasonable enough upside for Phegley going forward. For those looking for a decent prospect comp, I’ve got two names to consider – Phillies catcher Lou Marson (with a little more juice in his bat, but less glove) and Rangers catcher Max Ramirez (with less power, but better defense).
In the end, I think a Marson comp (right down to their similar level swings) makes the most sense with a more patient Barrett-like peak well within reason. One of the perks of an established college player with a strong statistical history like Phegley is the near elimination of the total bust factor; it’s hard to see Phegley completely flaming out as a pro, he’s had too much success against high level competition to bet against him at least reaching the bigs as a backup. With a ceiling of Mike Barrett and a floor of Josh Bard (high level backup deemed not quite good enough to catch full-time, but productive when given opportunities). There’s some very real value there, especially considering the typical dearth of catching prospects throughout baseball. It remains to be seen how far down the top prep college catchers will push the college guys on draft day, but Phegley’s statistical profile and good enough tools could get him picked anywhere from late in the first (to a competitive team in need of a quick moving catcher…Tampa? Boston?) to the middle of the third round. I’d take him over any other college catcher, but probably not until midway through the second round.
Another weekend, another dominant Stephen Strasburg performance.
Against a nationally ranked TCU team that we talked about before: 7 IP 4 H 3 ER 1 BB 14 K
His season numbers are silly: 70.1 IP 45 H 13 BB 135 K (7 WP 2 HBP 1 BK)
I’ve run out of things to say about him because, really, the numbers speak for themselves. I really can’t wait for his first start at Nationals Park when all the baseball world’s eyes will rightfully be watching the debut of the most acclaimed amateur baseball prospect ever.
Busy week ahead, so it only makes sense to get some of the bookkeeping out of the way early. A few quick things before we move on to bigger and better…
- 4 correct picks on the NFL Draft mock from Friday. 4 out of 32. I picked winners at a 12.5% success rate. Boy, is that bad. The worst part is I can’t promise the final MLB mock will be any better. Maybe I’ll dig up the one I did elsewhere last year and see how poorly I did…probably wasn’t much better than 12.5%.
- What do you think of the new site layout? I had a focus group of one help me pick it out, but I’m curious to hear if the switch is for the better or if more tweaking should be done. Come to think of it, the switch may not be noteworthy enough to comment on…I’m not sure I’d comment on somebody else’s site redesign at this stage in the game (we’re only two and half months in after all) for fear of getting invested in a site only to see it disappear like so many others seem to do. Then again, maybe I’m just weird like that. I probably shouldn’t equate commenting on a redesign with an emotional investment, but that’s exactly what I just did.
- I’m finally getting around to throwing up some links on the righthand sidebar. If you have a link that you think should be there, let me know. Same thing goes if you have any ideas for useful baseball related sites that I’ve yet to link to, as well as any team specific sites that don’t already have a link. The idea is to get a good, informative team site for all 30 MLB squads, but it’s harder to find good, informative team sites that place an emphasis on prospect development and the draft (Phuture Phillies and Future Redbirds, no relation, are two of the prototypes for this model) than I originally had thought. I started putting up a few already, but decided to wait and see for a little bit in case anybody out there has any insight into what direction I should go with the others.
Ask anybody who has the distinct pleasure of knowing me personally – my obsession with following the draft doesn’t end with baseball. So it only makes sense that I use this outlet to let some of my NFL Draft thoughts spill out of my brain. After the jump, check out a totally amateur hack job of what Saturday’s first round could maybe, possibly, kind of, sort of look like. The goal this year is to get at least 5 picks right, and, yes, I’m including getting the Stafford to Detroit pick in that five. Before my seemingly random NFL mock, a seemingly random quote about mocks in general. You see, recently I’ve been debating on ramping up the mock draft coverage done on this site – I enjoy doing them, people seem to be interested in them, and they can pack a good bit of information when done right. All of those are good things, but there are still drawbacks to mock drafts that I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on. Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders recently put into words something I’ve felt since starting this site up, but haven’t been able to accurately express…so I’ll steal his rant about the very nature of mock drafts:
This is insane! It’s all just idle speculation. I mean, we all know the top 20 to 30 prospects. Some teams have really obvious needs. But really, aren’t we just shuffling a deck over and over again here? Is there any accountability? Is a mock draft any more interesting or useful than, say, a player profile? Or a study to determine whether 40-times are really valuable for running backs?
Oh wait: Mock Drafts generate eyeballs. Casual fans click the link, read about their favorite team for 30 seconds, then move on. It’s a proven, easy-to-generate commodity in the marketplace. Heck, this isn’t even that much work, even if I am chained to the keyboard and producing them round-the-clock. And in two weeks, it will be over, and I will be writing about actual picks by actual teams that will affect the future of the entire league. Hooray! I have found my motivation.
I’ve gotten big traffic (well, not BIG big…big for me…I mean big is a relative term, right?) the past week and I owe it all to that updated mock draft from last Friday. The WordPress software allows me to see which pages are getting clicked on and, let me tell you, the gap in page views between mocks and non-mocks is laughable. I know page views isn’t a perfect way to evaluate who reads what, but the numbers are startling. For example, my first post, a quick summary of what this site is all about, has been viewed about 40 times; the second post, Mock Draft 1.0, has been viewed almost 4,000 times. Crazy, right?
I’m not complaining at all. I love doing mocks because a) they are fun, b) they are good conversation starters (I’ve learned a ton about the Astros since starting this site up), and c) they attract casual viewers who might not normally care about the Rule 4 First-Year Player Draft. I like providing the opportunity for someone out there who might only kind of sort of care about this stuff to suddenly become somebody who actually enjoys following amateur baseball and the baseball draft process. I actually want to start doing weekly updates as we get closer to the draft for those three reasons and I’m excited for the possibilities that some of the upcoming content will hopefully bring forth. Alright, enough of the meta stuff…2009 NFL Draft First Round Mock after the jump…
I really, really, really hope this doesn’t become a recurring feature here, but I’m just about positive that it will be. It’s time to look back through the archives and have a good laugh at something stupid stuff I’ve said. The only hard part is narrowing down which dumb thing to choose…
This particular rambling thought was from March 1, 2009. It’s not necessarily the dumbest thing ever put in print (notice my wonderful use of qualifiers and hypotheticals), but it’s certainly looks silly in hindsight. Behold my genius after the jump…
Another week, another crack at separating the first round of the upcoming draft into tiers. Alright, that’s not entirely true — it’s been almost three weeks since we first did this — but calling this a triweekly isn’t nearly as catchy, plus it’s way more confusing. Did you know triweekly can either mean “three times a week” or “every three weeks?” How can a word mean such different things and get away with it? English, what a silly language…
This is a modified, way wimpier version of the tiered breakdown from three weeks ago. I’m sticking to players that are stone cold locks to go in the first round only. I have the utmost confidence that the following players will be first rounders in June.
- Tier 1 –> 1 player
- Tier 2 –> 9 players
Dustin Ackley/Kyle Gibson/Aaron Crow/Alex White/Grant Green
Shelby Miller/Tyler Matzek/Matt Purke/Donovan Tate
- Tier 3 –> 6 players
Mike Leake/Tanner Scheppers/Rich Poythress
Luke Bailey/Zack Wheeler/Tyler Skaggs
That’s my new line of demarcation. 16 players that seem like sure bets to go in this year’s first round. If I wanted to get it up to an even twenty, I’d add the LSU duo (LeMahieu and Mitchell), my new favorite prep position player (yes, I’ve finally come around to Bobby Borchering), and this week’s fastest riser, lefty Rex Brothers of Lipscomb. I’m hesistant to call any of those players locks at this point, but I reserve the right to be a wimp for now.
Where am I wrong? Which player listed won’t be a first rounder? (Tyler Skaggs?) Are there any names left off the list that will be guaranteed first rounders that I missed? (Max Stassi? Matt Davidson? Andy Oliver? Austin Maddox? Brett Jackson?)
Nothing else prepared for a Monday morning, so why not a teeny bit of explanation on the first five picks guessed at on the latest top ten mock?
A gimme, right? The seven syllable line about the money (“Twenty mil sounds about right”) is about where I stand as far as where any potential Strasburg/Boras bonus demands will lead. He’ll smash the old draft signing bonus record, sure, but it will far way short of any of the big numbers being floated between now and the draft itself. In other words, twenty mil sounds about right…
I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating – something good is brewing in Seattle and it begins with the huge emphasis the new regime has put on stockpiling quality defensive players. To project Ackley to Seattle is to give up the dream that he’ll ever be the centerfielder; having seen him play on multiple occasions, I’m pretty confident in claiming that, at best, he’d be nothing more than a league average defender if forced to play CF. If Seattle loves the bat as much as I do, they’d be wise to call him a LF/1B from the start and just let the man hit.
1.3 San Diego/Crow
No real indication about which way the Padres are leaning, but the front office did publicly comment on the dearth of pitching in the system as recently as a few months ago. I know that’s the not the best reason in the world to have them pass on Grant Green, a player who would fill a gigantic organizational need, but it’s all I’ve got right now. In my head, this pick came down to Crow or Tyler Matzek.
Seriously, Green could be joining fellow up the middle talents like BJ Upton and Matt Wieters if anybody running this club had any common sense. Fans at PNC Park could be getting excited about adding another potential impact bat to a lineup that, in our bizarro world, would soon feature Upton/Wieters/Pedro Alvarez. I had an alternate haiku that managed to feature both Operation Shutdown (which is mentioned in Derek Bell’s wiki page, but really deserves a special entry) and Daniel Moskos, but decided to spare any Pirates fan and left it on the cutting room floor.
Who knows if Baltimore really believes that the best way to beat the big spenders and savvy front offices of the AL East is by getting as much young pitching as possible, but with Green off the board it is hard to see the O’s taking anybody but a pitcher this early. Matzek, Kyle Gibson, and Shelby Miller all make sense, but White’s blend of big game college experience and untapped potential will be enough for them to overlook his sometimes questionable mechanics.
High card in the deck
Twenty mil sounds about right
More hype than Barack
1.2 Seattle Mariners – Dustin Ackley
Z’s first draft as boss
Will defense dictate the pick?
No, instead Gwynn twin
1.3 San Diego Padres – Aaron Crow
Pads secret code
Yes, “the Crow flies at midnight”
Sorry, that was lame
1.4 Pittsburgh Pirates – Grant Green
Recent failures sting
Imagine this young core group
Green, Wieters, Upton…
1.5 Baltimore Orioles – Alex White
O’s new strategy
Slay East goliaths on mound
White needs his slingshot
1.6 San Francisco Giants – Donovan Tate
First prep player popped
Same tools as Carlos Beltran
Football? Zero chance
1.7 Atlanta Braves – Tyler Matzek
Home state player gone
Choice of prep port or starboard
Can’t beat the upside
1.8 Cincinnati Reds – Kyle Gibson
A perfect marriage
Groundballs and overworked arm
Fits ballpark, Dusty
1.9 Detroit Tigers – Shelby Miller
Grab righty and pray
System as down as GM
Cars and Dombrowski
1.10 Washington Nationals – James Paxton
Target rising college guy
Hey, I’d sign for slot!
Who is the best draft-eligible college catcher in all the land? We’re going to find out tournament-style! Robert Stock shocked the world…or the 400 people who read this site a day…and won a spot in the Final Four yesterday. Today, four more participants face off in our very special Mike Ivie Regional after the jump…
Mike Ivie Regional
Who is the best draft-eligible college catcher in all the land? We’re going to find out tournament-style! First up, the four participants facing off in our very special Steve Chilcott Regional…
Steve Chilcott Regional
1. Ryan Ortiz
4. Dan Black
2. Robert Stock
3. Anthony Sosnoskie
The Chilcott Regional, brought to you by the first overall pick of the 1966 Draft and one of only three top picks never to reach the big leagues (Brien Taylor and Matt Bush being the others), is headed up by one of the most athletic catchers in the country, Ryan Ortiz of Oregon State. Ortiz has a slightly above-average arm, but it plays up because of a very quick release. He’s got a big league frame (6-3, 205), but it’s more of a wiry, athletic build than a classic catcher’s body. He has limited upside with the bat because of unimpressive swing mechanics and his setup at the plate leaves plenty to be desired, but he has shown a very mature approach at the plate in his two years starting for the Beavers.
I think Ortiz would be lucky to have a pro career that follows the Eli Marrero/Mitch Maier path – getting at bats as a super-sub capable of filling the role of backup catcher, reserve corner outfielder, and occasional corner infielder. That’s not a knock, by the way; more young players would be better served by playing up their strengths (in Ortiz’s case, his above-average athleticism and experience at multiple positions on the diamond) and accentuating the positives in their games. Do everything in your power to be a great big league starter, of course, but if things don’t work out as planned then don’t fight a utility future, embrace it.
The challenger, Black, is a totally different animal. His oversized frame (6-4, 220) delivers exactly the kind of punch you’d expect – plus raw power and a plus throwing arm. In my world, a few plus tools beat the heck out of a ton of solid-average ones. In fact, in looking at the little bit of research I did a while back about why so many college catchers fail, I came to the following conclusion:
Catching prospects that fail seem to fall into three central categories: no stand out tools (for some reason players that are supposedly solid in all phases in the game don’t tend to pan out at the position), a string of developmentally damaging injuries (pretty self-explanatory), and more D than O. So all you have to do is find that offensive-oriented catcher with above-average tools and a clean injury history. Easy as that, right? Interesting to note that Jeff Clement, the highest drafted college catcher of the decade, only really fit one of the three criterion – he was an offense first prospect with question marks about all of his non-hit tools and creaky knees. He is still a good prospect, but he’s now 25 years old and back in AAA. Hmm.
Yes, I realize that’s hardly a groundbreaking conclusion, but it’s all I’ve got. Anyway, Black’s two standout tools give him the edge over Ortiz. Simplistic, I know. Sometimes it’s just as easy as that.
Plus raw power and plus arm strength > above-average arm, athleticism, solid contact skills, and below-average power. Black has the higher ceiling (big league starter either at catcher or third base), but Ortiz has the higher floor (his positional versatility is very appealing)In an upset, Black knocks out consensus favorite Ortiz to move on to the second round. Gee whiz, isn’t this fun?
The second matchup isn’t quite as entertaining. I remain a stubborn, stubborn man when it comes to Robert Stock’s catching potential. We’re at the point when almost everybody in the free world sees Stock as a pitcher, but me. You’d think that would be enough to convince me to give up the obsession with his unrealized upside behind the dish, but you have no idea the depths of my stubbornness. I still see the prep version of Stock that tantalized with plus arm strength, plus athleticism, and a projectable frame with lightning quick wrists that had scouts predicting he’d hit for as much power at Southern Cal than Jeff Clement. His mid-90s heat and potential plus curve have scouts believing his professional home will be on the mound, especially now that he’s getting starters innings as a pitcher for the Trojans, but I remain steadfast in my belief that his upside as a catcher hasn’t totally vanished despite three lackluster years at the college level. In a catching crop chock full of players with limited upside, Stock’s true talent level stacks up with all but a select few. Sosnoskie is a little bit like the anti-Stock in that he offers well above-average defense at present, but with a lot less offensive upside. He has shown a good bit of progress with the bat so far in 2009 (leading the Hokies in homers and rocking a 26-15 BB/K ratio), but it may be too little too late to change the perception that he’s a backup catcher at best in the pros. He’s pretty clearly in the lower half of the top 16 college catching prospects, and it will be interesting (to me, anyway) where he’ll eventually stack up against players with similar skillsets on draft day. Anyway, Stock wins this one going away.
4. Dan Black
2. Robert Stock
Two of my top five catchers (spoiler alert!) square off in the Chilcott Regional Final. No need to change my stubborn ways now, right? The winner is Stock but only by the tiniest of margins. It’s downright silly to compare any player to Baltimore phenom Matt Wieters, and it’s even sillier to compare the loser of a competition like this to such a stud prospect, but the scouting reports on Black all read like very poor man’s versions of Wieters. I’m not even sure what a comp like that means (what can we really expect out of a very poor man’s version of Wieters?), but it is just too sexy a comparison to ignore. Even still, give me Stock and that upside that only I still believe in, fool that I am. Welcome to the Final Four of College Catchers, Robert Stock.
At face value the passing of Harry Kalas is in no way related to the upcoming MLB Draft, but there is no way I could ignore the passing of the man who is as much a reason for this site existing as anybody else in my life. I originally fell in love with baseball for two simple reasons, reasons that are typical of many fans of the sport who grew up in the Delaware Valley – family and Harry Kalas. My family’s love of the game helped me fall in love with baseball in the first place, but I stayed a fan through the lean years of the mid-90s because of Kalas; he made every game worth listening to and helped turn my love of the game into full-fledged obsession.
I was at Game 5 last season when the Phillies won the World Series, so I missed HK’s call of the last out. The days following the win were such a blur that I didn’t get a chance to sit down and listen to that final call until finally hearing it by accident on the radio in the car. At that point I had no choice but to pull over and just take a minute to reflect on how the call I waited my whole life to hear, the call that I had played in my head hundreds of thousands of times over the years, the call that only I knew only one person in the world could possibly voice, had somehow been even better than I could have ever imagined. Even though I was in South Philadelphia on October 29th, 2008 to witness Eric Hinske wiff on a picture perfect Brad Lidge slider with my own two eyes, it wasn’t real until HK told me so.
It’s about time we got back to doing some positional rankings around these parts, don’t you think? We covered the top prep righthanded pitching prospects here, here, here, and here, as well as the top college righthanded starting pitching prospects here, here, and here. After a bit of a break, it’s time to jump back in this time with college catching prospects, a topic danced around but never ranked both here and here. Because straight rankings can become a little tiresome after a while, I decided to do something different with the catching prospects. Will it be cool? Will it be super lame? Will it be more confusing and time-consuming than it’s worth? Stay tuned! The top 16 college catching prospects in all the land after the jump, as well as the unveiling of just how we’ll be ranking them this time…
With the holiday weekend causing a scheduling shift around college baseball, usual Friday starter Stephen Strasburg takes the hill on a Thursday to lead off San Diego State’s series at UNLV. We all know what Strasburg has done to this point, but it never hurts to throw out his season numbers so far – unless, of course, you’re a fan of the Mariners…
On the season, Strasburg has struck out 94 batters while only walking 10 in 48.1 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting a whopping .160 against him so far (27 for 169). He’s good.
He’ll be facing a decent UNLV lineup, but one built on very few interesting pro prospects. In fact, Strasburg has faced UNLV once already this year and put up the following line: 7 IP 6 H 2 ER 1 BB 14 K. Again, he’s good.
This time, however, Strasburg will be going to UNLV’s Earl E. Wilson Stadium, a hitter’s paradise with a park factor of 121. How will he fare the second time up against the Rebels? How will he adjust to pitching in an even friendlier hitting environment than his own home park? We’ll know soon enough. Until then, a look at the three best UNLV hitting prospects that Stephen Strasburg will face tonight…after the jump
I’m still trying to get a feel when some of this year’s top prep talent will go off the board this June, so excuse me if this post comes across as little more than just some nut thinking aloud. The tiers below the jump are even more arbitrary than earlier iterations of the tier system, but they exist primarily as a means of separating the top talent while still allowing plenty of wiggle room in the future. Between not having any kind of worthwhile stats to go on, conflicting scouting reports, and fewer opportunities to actually see the guys play, evaluating the draft stock of high schoolers can be a real pain. Saying that one high school lefty is beyond a shadow of a doubt a superior prospect than another similarly ranked prospect is a fool’s game at this point in the process. (IMPORTANT NOTE: I am a fool who enjoys engaging in fool’s games very much, far more than I should probably, so expect plenty of Player X is better than Player Y talk on this site in the future…just not with high schoolers two months before the draft).
Instead, you get tiers for now. It’s mostly just an organizational piece for me, or a way of creating a launching pad (I love the mental imagery that evokes) for future high school draft talk. For now, mull over a quick top twenty of 2009 high school draft prospects – consider it a mix of where industry insiders have players ranked (Stevenson and Hobgood being two players with tons of helium right now that I’m not buying as elite prospects just yet) and a personal set of rankings chock full of my own special herbs and spices (as of now, I’m one of the very few on board with believing a player nicknamed Scooter is a top two round talent). It’s a difficult happy medium to reach, going with the consensus while also interjecting your own — hopefully informed — personal take, but ideally the end result is something worthwhile. Remember, the end goal here is simple…as the great Herm Edwards once said, “WE CAN BUILD ON THIS!”
Unranked ranking of the top twenty prep talents of 2009 after the jump
If semi-incoherent ramblings about a very specific and unimportant topic with no readily apparent conclusion or point is what gets you going, be prepared to start your week off with something special. If not, congratulations – you’re normal. I’ve got a hunch that anybody out there willing to read some dummy’s baseball draft website probably isn’t “normal” anyway (and I say that with nothing but love), so why not just give in and see where our aimless thoughts will lead us today…
The top 15 righthanded starting pitching prospects as listed on this site, in descending order:
An updated list might look a little something like this:
The tiers align with the first round board tiers from last week, with the exception of Dyson rising up to join Wilson and Berry. Volz and Inman are especially difficult players to place, so they got their own private tiers – it’s the perfect solution for a lazy writer like me, really. Nesseth, Heckathorn, Black, Cowan, and Hale are all players that are personal favorites from my initial top 15, but have such mixed opinions that I’m lost on where to slot them in. I guess what I think is most important to take away from the bottom three tiers is that Volz is a clear step above the Nesseth/Heckathorn/Black/Cowan/Hale group (in the eyes of scouts) and Inman has dropped enough that he is clearly below the group (in my eyes). Further complicating the matter is Nesseth’s switch back to the Nebraska bullpen, but I’ll leave him in with this group for now because I still think his stuff works as a starter professionally.
Players considered for the list, but left off for now include Blake Smith (Cal), Scott Bittle (Mississippi), Jorge Reyes (Oregon State), AJ Griffin (San Diego), and Brad Stillings (Kent State). Smith’s status as a two-way player vexes me, Bittle’s stuff may actually work better as a starter/swingman in the long run, and Griffin is a gigantic personal favorite that will see his stock fly up my own personal rankings when I do my next revisions.
Notable players still missing from the list are the righty college relievers – Ben Tootle (Jacksonville State), Jason Stoffel (Arizona), Brad Boxberger (Southern Cal), and Brian Pearl (Washington) all profile best as relievers. Perhaps I can be convinced otherwise (Boxberger and Pearl might have stuff that would translate; Tootle and Stoffel are much better fits in the pen), but for now all four would strictly be drafted as relievers if I was running the show.
For my money, the 2009 college righthanded pitching class absolutely trounces the 2008 class in terms of both quality and depth. However, the comparison between the two years is a tricky one to make because, and I really believe it’s as simple as this, the 2008 pitching class was an extremely weird one. The proponderence of college relievers made it an unusual draft at the time, but it’s gotten even weirder as we begin to see the long-term plans some of the big league teams have for their drafted relievers. Andrew Cashner, Joshua Fields, Ryan Perry, and Carlos Gutierrez were all college closers drafted in the first round. Of the four, it appears that only Fields and Perry are totally locked into their roles as professional relievers; Cashner and Gutierrez both may have the stuff to work better as pro starters. How do we then judge this class of pitching prospects? Are all four labeled as relievers? Does their eventual professional position carry more weight than their college position? How do we reconcile the fact that we don’t actually know the eventual landing spot of players like Cashner, Gutierrez, or Brad Holt? They may be given every shot imaginable to start, yet may work best as relievers in the long run. To simplify my life, I’m only going to evaluate players that were clearly scouted and drafted as starting pitchers.
The 2008 class was also a weird one because of the huge numbers of very talented players who slid down the board into the mid-rounds. These players were all almost cut from the exact same cloth – gigantic frames, big fastballs, questionable control and collegiate performance, and an inability to stay healthy. For this reason, it is my belief that this comparison would have been more enlightening if done with a pre-draft ranking of the available talent. Players like Chris Carpenter, Scott Green, Brett Hunter, Erik Davis, and Luke Burnett, to name a few, may have ranked higher on such a list. Kyle Heckathorn and Mike Nesseth, be forewarned.
2008 Top 15 College Righthanded Pitchers (7 college relievers, denoted with *)
Aaron Crow, Andrew Cashner*, Joshua Fields*, Ryan Perry*, Carlos Gutierrez*, Shooter Hunt, Brad Holt, Lance Lynn, Bryan Price*, Tanner Scheppers, Tyson Ross, Josh Lindblom*, Cody Adams, Aaron Shafer, Cody Satterwhite*
To this point, Cashner, Lindblom, and Price have all been tried as starters; Gutierrez and Satterwhite have so far only pitched out of the pen. I should also note that I was inconsistent in the way I included unsigned players (by memory, I think I only left out Scott Bittle), but I felt that excluding Crow and Scheppers would only create an unfair representation of the 2008 draft’s true talent level.
2008 Top 15 College Righthanded Starting Pitchers
Aaron Crow, Shooter Hunt, Brad Holt, Lance Lynn, Tanner Scheppers, Tyson Ross, Cody Adams, Aaron Shafer, Stephen Fife, Bobby Lanigan, Drew Liebel, Chris Carpenter, Aaron Pribanic, Scott Green, Vance Worley
Of that group, Holt, Fife, and Green may be future relievers, but all three were drafted as starters. College relievers excluded from this list, in addition to the names in the previous group, were Bryan Shaw, Zach Stewart, and Craig Kimbrel.
After all that, we’re left with comparing the following two pools of players. In one corner, we have the 2008’s:
Crow was king in 2008, but will slot in anywhere between second and fourth this year. Hunt is a quality arm and was a real steal to go as late as he did, but he isn’t in the same prospect class as Gibson, White, Leake, or a healthy Scheppers. I like Dyson, tentatively slotted 7th on the 2009 list, better than I do any of the 2008’s save Crow. If I had to do an overall ranking
Strasburg/Gibson/White/Crow/Leake/Scheppers/Dyson/Hunt/Wilson/Berry/Holt/Volz…and then things get especially murky. From that point on, however, the list would be more about trying to figure out where exactly to squeeze in the 09’s (namely Heckathorn, Hale, and Nesseth) than finding spots for the 08’s (as much as I like guys like Ross and Worley, I’m not sure I could put them over a Black or a Cowan with confidence). There are plenty of slightly later round picks from 2008 (Ethan Hollingsworth, Dan Hudson, Colby Shreve, DJ Mitchell, Michael Stutes) that would also muddle up the picture of what my pre-draft top 15 would look like, but I’ll stubbornly stick with judging the top ranked players from past years based on draft order for now. A comparison between the 2009’s and 2010’s will be better next season because I can compare and contrast my own pre-draft rankings, lists that hopefully give a better idea of talent-level than draft order (which is often skewed by signability and simple team preference).
If you were to include the college relievers from the 2008 class, the overall talent gap would close. Lindblom and Cashner were both players viewed as strong candidates to be switched to the rotation, so if we pretended they were drafted as such, they would compare favorably with Dyson and Wilson as starting pitching prospects. Come to think of it, I wonder if there is a comp to be made between Lindblom and Dyson. That might be worth looking into…but now I’m merely thinking out loud, a sure sign it’s time to wrap this up.
In conclusion…wait, I have no real conclusion. Hmm. In conclusion, 2009 looks like a better year for top end college righthanded starting pitching, but when the 09’s are headed up by Stephen Strasburg and three other potential top ten picks, that’s hardly much of a conclusion at all. I’m willing to concede that the depth between the two classes is pretty close in talent-level, but I’d still give the edge to 2009…though there is still plenty of time left between now and June to sort out who constitutes the “depth” of which we speak of in the 2009 Draft. My real conclusion is actually 100% unrelated to college righthanded pitching prospects. I thought of a pretty good comp for a potential top ten pick the other day, but I’m not all the way there with it just yet, if you know what I mean. It’s not quite a fully developed idea, but I’ll just throw it out there here so I can have it on the record…Grant Green (Southern Cal, SS) and Jason Donald (Arizona, Phillies, SS/3B/2B). Am I crazy in thinking they have similar enough profiles to compare the two?