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College First Basemen: 2008 to 2012

As I sat down over the weekend to at least begin to attempt to justify some of the odder placements from last Friday’s 2012 initial top 100 list, I found myself struck with the weirdest case of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced. There was plenty to talk about — a defense of Lance McCullers at the top, the super high top ten rankings of a pair of college guys from Texas schools, a higher than usual number of draft-eligible sophomores primed to crash the first round — but for some reason my mind kept coming back to 2008, the year I started to look at the draft less in terms of specific players I had personally seen play and more in a comprehensive, 30 team/50 round way. I’ve also always been a sucker for a good hook, so the allure of any type of draft-related “Year of the _____” appealed to me. The 2008 draft was built up as the “Year of the First Baseman,” and, though the results have been predictably mixed thus far, on balance I think the hype has been justified. I became so stuck on this one thought — early round first basemen of the recent past and how they stack up to the four first basemen on my top 100 — that I couldn’t get to anything else.

What I think I’ve always been fascinated about with respect to first base prospects is the high stakes gamble that comes with taking a first baseman early on draft day. If your athletic five-tool up-the-middle draft prospect doesn’t hit as expected, you’ve still got — wait, let me get my calculator — four tools, including defense and the ancillary positional value boost, remaining. If your first base prospect doesn’t hit (and hit a ton), then you’re left with nothing but regret. I also like the fact that college first baseman represent arguably the safest possible investment early on in the draft. Close reading shows that we’ve gone from “high stakes gamble” to “safest possible investment” in a single paragraph. Studies (that I can’t seem to be able to Google up right now) have shown that elite college hitters (with the numbers to back up said “eliteness”) tend to translate very well to the pro game. That’s what made 2008 so thrilling for me, I guess. Justin Smoak and Yonder Alonso had that power/plate discipline blend that made them look like ready-made big league regulars even on draft day. College teammates Brett Wallace and Ike Davis both seemed likely to settle in as starters as well. It wasn’t crazy to think Allan Dykstra and David Cooper would be hitting 25+ bombs a year. If any of their bats betrayed them, however, then poof! any hope of a real big league career would be gone.

As I’ve written before, this past year didn’t have a Smoak, Alonso, or even a Wallace, at least not until it became clear CJ Cron wouldn’t be capable of donning the tools of ignorance as a pro. Even still, Cron, as impressive a hitter as he is, was seen as a prospect closer in pre-draft stature to Davis than one of ’08′s bigger names. A comparison, rough as it is, between Baseball America’s very early draft preview (taken from the Prospect Handbook published in January each year) and this year’s current rising group of first base prospects (according to me) provides some context to the discussion. Included are only players who wound up as first, supplemental first, or second round picks:

Draft Year: Player Name (ranking)

2008: Smoak (3), Alonso (5), Dykstra (24), Wallace (28), Cooper (55), Davis (68)

2009: Rich Poythress (33)

2010:

2011: Cron (40)

2012: Jayce Boyd (25), Christian Walker (27), Richie Shaffer (38), Max Muncy (69)

The upcoming draft won’t have six college first baseman taken in the first round nor will it have two (or three, depending on how some felt about Wallace at the time) potential franchise cornerstones who happen to play first, but it does have a handful of young men who just might have enough bat to play first base everyday at the highest level. Without getting too deep into the scouting profiles of Boyd, Walker, Shaffer, and Muncy (plenty of time for that in the next 11 months, plus I’ve already gone into some detail on Boyd here and Shaffer there), I thought a “quick” look at how all twelve of these college first basemen stack up from both the statistical and scouting sides could be interesting.

To keep the comparisons going, I’ve provided the basic information for all eight of those first, supplemental first, and second round college first base picks from the past three drafts, plus the four players listed in my early top 100 for 2012. All stat lines are raw, unfortunately, as we don’t have access to park/league/schedule adjusted stats going back a few years. Keep in mind that the batting lines are also really tough to compare on account of the BBCOR bats debuting in 2011. Also included are quotes taken from the aforementioned Baseball America Prospect Handbook, as chosen by yours truly. All quotes for the prospects from 2008 and 2009 are from the prospect’s first year out of college. The CJ Cron entry has quotes pulled from Baseball America’s draft preview, and the quotes on the current college players are ones that I’ve managed to get on record from the always entertainingly nebulous “industry insiders.”

You may be wondering “what’s the point?” after reading though the comparison below. Truthfully, I’m not sure there is one. I had originally hoped some wonderful epiphany about college first base prospects would come to me, either in the form of a statistical trend or a certain scouting similarities. Heck, you know as much as I like to “force” comps that I’m dying to match up some of the 2008-2011 players with a 2012 counterpart, but I’m really not sure I see a fit. As it is, I think what we have here is context.

*****

Yonder Alonso | 2008 | Cincinnati | 1.7 | University of Miami

FR – .295/.373/.492 – 32 BB/37 K – 244 AB
SO – .376/.519/.705 – 64 BB/31 K – 210 AB
JR – .370/.534/.777 – 76 BB/35 K – 211 AB

  • “rare hitter who has both plus power and the swing and pitch awareness to hit for a high average as well”
  • “allergic to strikeouts”
  • “yet to prove that he can recognize and hit a quality breaking ball”
  • “below-average athlete and runner”
  • “soft hands and adequate range should allow him to develop into at least an average defender”

Justin Smoak | 2008 | Texas | 1.11 | University of South Carolina

FR – .303/.407/.586 – 40 BB/39 K – 244 AB
SO – .315/.434/.631 – 54 BB/40 K – 260 AB
JR – .383/.505/.757 – 57 BB/28 K – 235 AB

  • “well-above-average power”
  • “Gold Glove potential at first base”
  • “below-average speed”
  • “projects as a middle-of-the-order power hitter”

Brett Wallace | 2008 | St. Louis | 1.13 | Arizona State University

FR – .371/.439/.583 – 17 BB/26 K – 151 AB
SO – .423/.500/.719 – 37 BB/34 K – 253 AB
JR – .410/.526/.753 – 48 BB/33 K – 239 AB

  • “one of the best pure hitters in the minors”
  • “balanced, level swing creates consistent line drives”
  • “Think batting champ with the ability to be a big bopper”
  • “average arm and surprising footwork”
  • “below-average athleticism, speed, and agility”

David Cooper | 2008 | Toronto | 1.17 | University of California

FR – .305/.337/.404 – 9 BB/18 K – 151 AB
SO – .382/.450/.627 – 30 BB/21 K – 204 AB
JR – .359/.449/.682 – 37 BB/35 K – 220 AB

  • “tremendous barrel awareness and excellent hand-eye coordination”
  • “should produce high batting averages”
  • “could develop average power and hit 18-20 homers per season”
  • “below-average athlete and poor runner”
  • “offers limited range and slow reactions at first base”

Ike Davis | 2008 | New York Mets | 1.18 | Arizona State University

FR – .329/.387/.542 – 20 BB/58 K – 240 AB
SO – .346/.400/.532 – 26 BB/39 K – 231 AB
JR – .385/.457/.742 – 31 BB/34 K – 213 AB

  • “considered a slick defensive first baseman – the type who could contend for a Gold Glove some day”
  • “strong arm”
  • “below-average speed”

Allan Dykstra | 2008 | San Diego | 1.23 | Wake Forest University

FR – .324/.479/.670 – 51 BB/32 K – 185 AB
SO – .310/.479/.615 – 57 BB/33 K – 226 AB
JR – .323/.519/.645 – 62 BB/45 K – 186 AB

  • “plus-plus raw power and plate discipline”
  • “should hit for some average as well”
  • “above-average arm”
  • “below-average athlete, runner, and defender at first base”

Rich Poythress | 2009 | Seattle | 2.51 | University of Georgia

FR – .282/.354/.410 – 17 BB/31 K – 156 AB
SO – .374/.461/.626 – 46 BB/40 K – 265 AB
JR – .376/.473/.764 – 42 BB/39 K – 237 AB

  • “power is his standout tool”
  • “controls the strike zone and doesn’t try to pull everything”
  • “ought to hit for a decent average”
  • “below-average range and fringy arm”
  • “doesn’t have much speed”
  • “Some scouts who saw him in college wonder if his power will play against better velocity”

CJ Cron | 2011 | Los Angeles Angels | 1.17 | University of Utah

FR – .337/.380/.557 – 14 BB/31 K – 246 AB
SO – .431/.493/.817 – 17 BB/23 K – 197 AB
JR – .434/.517/.803 – 31 BB/21 K – 198 AB

  • “doesn’t move well at first base and is a bottom-of-the-scale runner”
  • “above-average hitter”
  • “legitimate 80 raw power that translates into at least above-average usable power”

*****

Jayce Boyd | 2012 | ranked 25th | Florida State University

FR – .326/.394/.507 – 27 BB/38 K – 227 AB
SO – .335/.415/.515 – 34 BB/32 K – 233 AB

  • “plus raw power, maybe a touch less”
  • “potential award winner with glove at first base”
  • “such a naturally gifted hitter that he could probably do it with his eyes closed”

Christian Walker | 2012 | ranked 27th | University of South Carolina

FR – .327/.384/.518 – 18 BB/18 K – 226 AB
SO – .361/.442/.556 – 32 BB/26 K – 241 AB

  • “plus hit tool with enough strength and loft to hit 20+ homers at next level”
  • “currently a shaky defender, but upside to be average”

Richie Shaffer | 2012 | ranked 38th | Clemson University

FR – .323/.415/.525 – 18 BB/36 K – 158 AB
SO – .315/.438/.577 – 44 BB/53 K – 222 AB

  • “recovered from broken hamate to show true plus power”
  • “good present defender with the chance to be excellent”
  • “strong arm”

Max Muncy | 2012 | ranked 69th | Baylor University

FR – .300/.374/.500 – 24 BB/48 K – 230 AB
SO – .322/.428/.511 – 37 BB/36 K – 227 AB

  • “far from the prototypical slugging first base prospect”
  • “good athlete, good defender, average runner”
  • “line drive machine who specializes in squaring up and making consistent solid contact”
  • “development of power will make or break him…bat currently profiles as much better at his high school position [catcher]“

Shadow Drafting – 2007, 2008, and 2009

A quick look back at some of my own brief forays into shadow drafting for the Philadelphia Phillies. This is almost surely one of those pieces that interests me way more than it could ever interest anybody else, but I think it has some value in that it give some sort of idea of which style of player I’ve liked over the past few years. I’d say grabbing guys like Main, Griffith, Melville, and Seaton all within the first two rounds the past two years would qualify as a bit of a draft trend, as would the selections of Jackson, Hood, and Westmoreland. Who knew I was so in love with prep righthanded pitching and super toolsy high school position players? I wouldn’t have said I feel all that strongly about either type of player, but it’s all right there in black and white. Interesting.

2007

1.19 – RHSP Michael Main (LHSP Joe Savery)
1S.37 – SS Justin Jackson (C Travis D’Arnaud)
2.83 – RHSP Nevin Griffith (3B Travis Mattair)

2008

(Republished from another archived Gmail – yes, this is what I email people about…sad, but true)

I tried my hand at the shadowing the Phillies draft this year in real-time. This was what I would have done and not necessarily what I would have guessed the Phillies would do. You can look at it two ways – where the guys wound up getting picked today (semi-useful, but not really) or what will become of these guys years down the road (the better way, but who’s got the patience?). I freaking love Seaton and thought the Phillies would be all over him – they trust their area scouts in Texas above pretty much any other region. I think I like Hood more than Collier personally, but it’s really close. Putnam dropped because of injury or something, Melville due to signability. Westmoreland has a Rocco Baldelli comp (maybe only since both are from Rhode Island), Martinez was a first rounder two months ago who stunk up the joint his senior year and will now most likely go to Miami for college ball, and St. Clair was a teammate of Savery’s at Rice who I’ve been a gigantic fan of for three years now. Amazingly enough, the Phillies and I were of the same mind when it came to picking Hamilton and Shreve…weird stuff, but I like the picks, especially the selection of Shreve, a first round caliber talent who could be the steal of the entire draft (I don’t say that lightly).

1.24 Tim Melville RHP
S.34 Ross Seaton RHP
2.51 Destin Hood OF
2.71 Zach Putnam RHP
3.102 Ryan Westmoreland OF
3.110 Harold Martinez 3B
4.136 Cole St. Clair LHP
5.166 Jeremy Hamilton 1B
6.196 Colby Shreve RHP

Now, real life:

1.24 Anthony Hewitt 3B
S.34 Zach Collier OF
2.51 Anthony Gose OF
2.71 Jason Knapp RHP
3.102 Vance Worley RHP
3.110 Jonathan Pettibone RHP
4.136 Trevor May RHP
5.166 Jeremy Hamilton 1B
6.196 Colby Shreve RHP

2009

I can’t decide if I want to continue doing the Phillies (their first pick is a loooooong wait from the front of the draft) or if I want to choose a different team this year to mix things up. Ideally, the team would have picks in nearly every round at or around the mid-point of each round. This may be a gametime decision.

From the Vault: Woefully Inaccurate 2008 and 2007 MLB Mock Drafts

And now for something totally different…from deep down in my own personal archives (aka a recovered document from my Gmail account), my final mock draft of the 2008 MLB Draft. Yes, in the span of one year I’ve gone from emailing friends and family about the draft to writing about it on a near-daily basis on this little website. Is that progress? Or a sure sign of my mental deterioration? Time will tell!

If you can forgive the Phillies-centric notes, check out how wonderfully wrong I was once things got tricky after pick six in my projected first round of last year’s mock. I figure it’s only fair to give everybody out there a head’s up on my spotty track record in projecting the first round. Enjoy.

I feel pretty good about the first four, but after that all hell breaks loose. White Beckham to Cincy feels right, but beyond that the rest of my top ten could all be wrong-o. Posey is the guy who really makes the top half of the draft funky – he’s the best player to likely fall out of the top four (and in my mind either the second or third best overall anyway), but his bonus demands really make him a wildcard. I have no feel where Hunt will go, but Jim Callis (the best in the world when it comes to forecasting the first round) has him falling to the Phillies at 24. I’ve seen a lot of him on TV this season and he’d be great value at that spot. Picks 11-15 I feel good about, but they’ll of course depend on who rises and falls in the top ten. I’ll say if the board breaks the way I think it will (more or less), those projections will all be on the money. Cubs taking Melville works for me, as does my semi-surprise pick of Perry to Seattle. I have no clue what the Mets are thinking this year - probably a college reliever, catcher, or high upside high schooler combination of some sort, but getting the names to work was a pain. Cashner and Castro fit the reliever/catcher pattern, so that’s what I came up with. Finally, the 24th pick. I have no idea what names the Phillies are targeting for real – normally I can fake the fact that I’m sort of plugged into the home nine’s thinking, but this year is a mystery. When faced with a challenge like that, we work in generalities – big strapping young RHPs and toolsy athletic types, with a supposed 2008 inclination towards getting a more polished college bat who may drop. Hunt fits the first profile (big, raw RHP - even though he is a college kid, he has considerable upside), but other names to consider include high school righthanders Ethan Martin, Tim Melville, Jake Odorizzi, and Alex Meyer. They’ve also been linked to high school bats Hewitt, Zach Collier, and Casey Kelly and the possibility they go college reliever is always out there (I don’t buy the reliever talk at all, but we’ll see). The surprise pick of a college bat would most likely wind up one of the Arizona State guys (Brett Wallace or Ike Davis) or 3B Conor Gillaspie. Ultimately, my giant surprise pick has them going with one of the draft’s most controversial players: Gerrit Cole. Cole is a mess – mechanics are scary, all kinds of reported makeup problems, and he’s a client of Scott Boras. He also has the best fastball in the entire draft and, from a talent alone perspective, would be a giant steal at 24. The first two negatives (mechanics and makeup) won’t worry the Phillies as much as they will other teams (I think), but the last one (Boras) could be a deal breaker. Cole could also be snapped up by the Mets, Cubs, or Tigers right before the Phillies pick. If that’s the case, any of those other guys mentioned (most likely a high school bat, based on the board) could be the man.

1. TB: SS Tim Beckham
2. PIT: 3B Pedro Alvarez
3. KC: 1B Eric Hosmer
4. BAL: LHSP Brian Matusz
5. SF: C Buster Posey
6. FLA: C Kyle Skipworth
7. CIN: SS Gordon Beckham
8. CWS: 1B Justin Smoak
9. WAS: RHSP Aaron Crow
10. HOU: RHSP Shooter Hunt
11. TEX: RHSP Ethan Martin
12. OAK: 1B Yonder Alonso
13. STL: LHSP Christian Friedrich
14. MIN: SS Brett Lawrie
15. LAD: OF Aaron Hicks
16. MIL: SS Casey Kelly
17. TOR: 1B Brett Wallace
18. NYM: RHRP Andrew Cashner
19. CHC: RHSP Tim Melville
20. SEA: RHRP Ryan Perry
21. DET: RHSP Jake Odorizzi
22. NYM: C Jason Castro
23. SD: OF Ike Davis
24. PHI: RHSP Gerrit Cole
25. COL: SS Anthony Hewitt
26. ARI: RHRP Josh Fields
27. MIN: 2B Jemile Weeks
28. NYY: 1B David Cooper
29. CLE: OF Zach Collier
30. BOS: 1B Allan Dykstra

UPDATE! I found my 2007 mock draft as well! This one was actually published for all to see at my old Phillies blog. The 2007 first round, according to me:

1. Tampa – LHSP David Price
2. Kansas City – 3B Josh Vitters
3. Chicago (NL) – RHSP Jarrod Parker
4. Pittsburgh – C Devin Mesoraco
5. Baltimore – LHSP Ross Detwiler
6. Washington – C Matt Wieters
7. Milwaukee – UT Mike Moustakas
8. Colorado – LHRP Dan Moskos
9. Arizona – RHSP Phillippe Aumont
10. San Francisco – LHSP Madison Bumgarner
11. Seattle – LHSP Nick Schmidt
12. Florida – CF Julio Borbon
13. Cleveland – RHSP Blake Beavan
14. Atlanta – OF Jason Heyward
15. Cincinnati – 3B Kevin Ahrens
16. Toronto – 3B Matt Dominguez
17. Texas – RHSP Rick Porcello
18. St. Louis – OF Kyle Russell
19. Philadelphia – RHSP Michael Main
20. Los Angeles – RHSP Matt Harvey
21. Toronto – C J.P. Arencibia
22. San Francisco – 1B Beau Mills
23. San Diego – 3B/OF Todd Frazier
24. Texas – RHSP Chris Withrow
25. Chicago (AL) – SS Justin Jackson
26. Oakland – 1B Matt LaPorta
27. Detroit – RHSP Andrew Brackman
28. Minnesota – OF Michael Burgess
29. San Francisco – SS Pete Kozma
30. New York (AL) – LHSP Joe Savery

Another awful mock if I do say so myself. To somewhat save face, I did say this the morning of the draft:

I have zero doubt that Wieters can stick behind the plate – he excels in all phases of the game defensively, with his rocket arm standing out as a plus plus tool. At the plate, his bat is good enough to play anywhere on the field.

I think Matt Wieters is the best player in the draft this year.

It wasn’t going out on the biggest limb (or would it be tiniest?) ever, but it was at least mildly controversial to suggest he was a better player than David Price back in June of 2007. Heck, it’s still mildly controversial. Alright, that’s it – no more mocks until the first 2010 one is unveiled, I promise.

College Righthanded Starting Pitching Prospects – Comparing 2008 to 2009

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:

Jeff Inman, David Hale, Jake Cowan, Sean Black, Sam Dyson
Alex Wilson, Kyle Heckathorn, Mike Nesseth, Kendal Volz, Mike Leake
Aaron Crow, Tanner Scheppers, Kyle Gibson, Alex White
Stephen Strasburg

An updated list might look a little something like this:

Strasburg
Gibson/White/Crow
Leake/Scheppers
Dyson/Wilson/Berry
Volz
Nesseth/Heckathorn/Black/Cowan/Hale
Inman

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:

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

Their challenger, the 2009′s (don’t read too much into the exact order, I just threw it together quickly):
Stephen Strasburg
Kyle Gibson
Alex White
Aaron Crow
Mike Leake
Tanner Scheppers
Sam Dyson
Alex Wilson
Ryan Berry
Kendal Volz
Mike Nesseth
Kyle Heckathorn
Sean Black
Jake Cowan
David Hale

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?

Breaking News: Josh Fields Signs, ’09 Draft Order Altered Ever So Slightly

The news isn’t really breaking, but a headline like that really packs a punch. Former Georgia Bulldog closer Josh Fields is the newest member of the Seattle Mariner organization after reportedly agreeing to terms yesterday. Nobody — well, neither player nor team — is talking about the agreement just yet, but it is widely believed to be a done deal. So, what does it all mean? Check out the updated draft order (first round only) after the jump…but not before our sickeningly sweet Valentine’s Day photo sets the mood…

English Corner

Photo Credit: English Corner

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Looking Forward to the Past

Catchy title, right? There’s not quite enough there to keep it from being pretty much meaningless, but it’s just snappy enough to somehow appear superficially deep. A long time ago, a wise man was heard to remark, “In order to look forward, we must first reconcile what we’ve learned from the past.” Alright, a wise man didn’t actually say that. Unless you consider me a wise man, something I promise you yourselves would be wise not to do. And it wasn’t said a long time ago either. Not unless thirty seconds constitutes a long time, that is. There was a point here, I promise.

There Were Ten Tigers

Photo Credit: There Were Ten Tigers

Oh, right. In lieu of following my own not-so-strict personal content schedule, I thought we’d instead wrap up our look at the ’09 prep righthanders by comparing this year’s class of high school pitching with the 2008 group. We’re looking back at the past to learn a little something about the future. I love it when it all comes full circle like that. No conclusions can really be drawn on data (such as it is) one year out of a draft class’s debut, so this exercise is more about the casual talent comparison of the ’08 prep righties and the ’09 class. One thing it is definitely NOT about is filling time and space with a quick and easy post because other more substantive stuff isn’t quite ready. No sirs and madams, that’s not it all…

2008 Prep Righthanded Pitchers – Personal Top 15 [as of 6/08]

1. Ethan Martin
2. Alex Meyer
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Ross Seaton
5. Jake Odorizzi
6. Zeke Spruill
7. Tim Melville
8. Kyle Wieland
9. Michael Palazzone
10. Jason Knapp
11. Daniel Webb
12. Tyler Sample
13. Sonny Gray
14. Trey Haley
15. Tyler Chatwood

Elite athleticism and evidence of a plus or potential plus breaking ball were big-time considerations in making up this list. The highest pick of the group was Ethan Martin (15th overall). The lowest pick of the group was Sonny Gray (821st overall). There were 2 first rounders, 1 supplemental first rounder, 3 second rounders, 1 supplemental second rounder, 1 third rounder, 1 supplemental third rounder, 2 fourth rounders, 1 twelfth rounder, 1 eighteenth rounder, 1 twentieth rounder, and 1 twenty-seventh rounder.

Martin and Cole were first rounders. Odorizzi was a supplemental first rounder. Chatwood, Haley, and Knapp were second rounders. Spruill was a supplemental second rounder. Sample was a third rounder. Seaton was a supplemental third rounder. Wieland and Melville were 4th rounders. Webb was a 12th rounder. Palazzone was an 18th rounder. Alex Meyer was a 20th rounder, and Sonny Gray was a 27th rounder.

Quick Observations: 9/15 went in the first three rounds, 6/15 fell far further than talent dictated due to signability concerns (Cole, Melville, Webb, Palazzone, Meyer, and Gray – all but Melville went the college/junior college route), and twelfth is a very weird looking word in print…

2008 Prep Righthanded Pitchers Picked in the First Five Rounds (Players Not in My Top 15)

Jordan Lyles
Seth Lintz
Kevin Eichorn
Jonathan Pettibone
Curtis Petersen
Tyler Cline
Trevor May
Maverick Lasker

Lyles went in the supplemental first round. Lintz went in the second round. Eichorn went in the third. Pettibone went in the third round (supplemental). Petersen, Cline, and May went in the fourth round. Lasker went in the fifth.

My Island Players – the players nobody, including many scouting directors, seemed to like nearly as much as I did

Ryan O’Sullivan
Jordan Cooper
Austin Dicharry
Kyle Winkler
Matt Magill

O’Sullivan wasn’t entirely unloved, he was a 10th round pick. Cooper, Winkler, and Magill had various degrees of success on draft day – they went in the 17th, 37th, and 31st rounds, respectively. Dicharry went undrafted and is now a freshman on the Texas pitching staff.

Note: the island player list isn’t the BS list you’ll see in other places. I mean, come on – “I had [consensus top five round talent] as my big sleeper!” isn’t really going out on that big a limb, you know? It’s good to have favorite guys like that, but you need to admit that they aren’t exactly the deepest of sleepers to anybody who regularly follows this stuff. So much of prospecting (the business side of it, that is) is about exploiting casual fans that don’t regularly follow the dregs of baseball (minors and draft) by sensationalizing the idea of “under the radar” players. I promise to stay away from that here, but, if I slip up, please please please call me out on it.

Stacking up the ’09′s with the ’08′s

Here was our top 15 2009′s: Shelby Miller, Jacob Turner, Mychal Givens, Zack Wheeler, Scott Griggs, Keyvius Sampson, Brooks Pounders, Daniel Tuttle, Mark Appel, Matt Graham, Michael Heller, Brody Colvin, Chris Jenkins, Ethan Carter, Jordan Cooper

The top 15 2008′s were listed above. So, if we had to put the lists together and rank them as if they were one great big giant class, who would go where? A very rough guess might look something like this (2009′s in bold):

1. Ethan Martin
2. Alex Meyer
3. Shelby Miller
4. Gerrit Cole
5. Ross Seaton
6. Jake Odorizzi
7. Zeke Spruill
8. Tim Melville
9. Jacob Turner
10. Mychal Givens
11. Zack Wheeler
12. Scott Griggs
13. Keyvius Sampson
14. Brooks Pounders

15. Kyle Wieland
16. Michael Palazzone
17. Jason Knapp
18. Daniel Webb
19. Tyler Sample
20. Sonny Gray

Only 7 of the top 20 from the combined list are 2009′s. This blows my theory that the 2009 class looks stronger (at this point) right on out of the water. I won’t lie – part of the reason I wanted to compare the two classes was to “prove” that the 2009 class was superior. Seeing the list above really brings the following point home: coming to a conclusion and then working backwards to prove it is a bad, bad idea. The list also illuminates the absurdity of ranking high school pitchers so early in the process. One of the reasons I think there are more 2008′s on the list is simple – there’s more data to judge them on, and thus less fear of the unknown. Matt Graham, Chris Jenkins, Ethan Carter…those guys could shoot up the list with big springs, much like some of the guys in 2008 did before them.

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