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Josh Edgin: From Round 50 to Citi Field

Totally original thought of the day: the MLB Draft is really, really unpredictable. Bold statement, I know, but there’s something amazing about a professional sports draft that allows for even the outside possibility that somebody selected after 1,497 other big league hopefuls can actually make it to the highest level. Josh Edgin, a lefthanded starting pitcher from Francis Marion University (by way of Ohio State), was drafted in the fiftieth (50th!) round in 2009. Think about how crazy that is for a moment: Edgin was deemed not quite good enough to get drafted 1,497 times over before the Braves pulled the trigger with the 1,498th overall pick. A little perspective here: only 14 of the 49 2009 first round (including the supplemental round) picks have reached the big leagues. Many more seem like stone cold locks to make their big league debuts in the not too distant future – Tony Sanchez, Zack Wheeler, Shelby Miller, Grant Green, and Tyler Skaggs, just to name a few – while others face seemingly insurmountable roads to even crack a AAA roster (we’ll withhold names to protect the innocent, but a quick look at this list is quite revealing) before they hang up the spikes. Future progress of these first rounders aside, there’s something special about beating the majority of your draft class’ first round picks to the big leagues.

Of course, mentioning Edgin as a member of the 2009 draft class is cheating because, as any Mets (and a few die-hard Braves) fan knows, Edgin didn’t sign in 2009. He waited until after his senior season in 2012 – upgraded to the thirtieth (30th) round by that point – to begin his pro career. Normally we won’t associate a prospect with a draft year they go unsigned (think of the problems this would cause for high school players who wind up at four-year universities), but Josh Edgin’s meteoric rise to the big leagues is proof that sometimes it is alright to roll with an exception or two.

I didn’t write anything about Josh Edgin on the site back in either 2009 or 2010, so, to make up for not knowing who he was for far long, here are a few quick bullet points on the player I consider to be one of the underrated success stories of 2012:

  • After signing with the Mets in 2010, Edgin made the big leagues in just over two years. College seniors move quick, true, and the same can be said about relief prospects, but two years is still pretty impressive.
  • As a minor leaguer, Edgin put up outstanding numbers at every stop along the way. His worst K/9 in any extended stretch was his 9.00 K/9 in A+ ball last season.
  • Edgin has above-average velocity for a lefthander (per Fangraphs, he’s averaging an impressive 93 MPH in this year’s big league run), throws lots of sliders (an effective out-pitch thus far), and will mix in an occasional changeup when necessary
  • Edgin’s excellent aforementioned minor league numbers are even better when you only look at what he has done against lefthanders. However, his stuff and stats indicate that he’s not necessarily a lefty specialist only. However (again), in his small big league sample, righties have hit him just fine (.286/.412/.571 in a whopping 17 plate appearances). He’s held lefties down to a combined .333 OPS, striking out over half (11 of 21) of the lefthanded batters he has faced thus far.

Whether or not Edgin’s future is as a highly specialized lefty neutralizer or something more, it is fair to say that his cumulative professional performances since signing have put him in a position to land a steady role in the 2013 Mets bullpen. Not bad for a one-time fiftieth round pick.

Colton Cain and Scott McGough

I was planning on posting something with a more historical — going way back in the archives to the year 2009 — bent this afternoon, but with the trade deadline less than a week away and deals being made at a 2 Fast, 2 Furious pace, it only makes sense to go with what’s topical by discussing some of the prospects who are on the move. Pittsburgh and the Dodgers both beefed up their rosters in the hopes of some “flags fly forever” postseason glory, but, as we covered yesterday, the established big leaguers swapping laundry are nowhere as interesting — in the context of this site, naturally — than the recently drafted prospects hitting the road.

First, we have the Pirates overpaying Houston for Wandy Rodriguez. The money saved on moving Rodriguez and the addition of Robbie Grossman makes the trade a big win for the Astros, a franchise that I think will serve as a fantastic case study that will help answer the question “how long does it take to rebuild an organization?” over the next few seasons. One of the first steps to going from 100+ losses to competitive is figuring out how to flip bad contracts for useful parts. These useful parts tend to come in one of two standard archetypes: high ceiling/total bust floor lottery tickets OR average ceiling/big league backup floor near-ML ready talent. Ideally you can shed salary while picking up a combination of the two prospect types, though it is interesting to see that Jeff Luhnow and company have focused predominantly on the latter thus far. It’s too early to say that they are doing this as an organizational philosophy — there’s enough grey area between strictly adhering to an overarching philosophy and simply riding wherever the wave of the trade market takes you that as outsiders we can’t ever fully appreciate — but I happen to like Houston’s approach so far. The Astros have so far to come from a talent standpoint as an organization that adding cheap, controllable talent close to the big leagues will help buy time (and, as importantly, future payroll flexibility) while the players with star upside germinate in the minors.

Speaking of players with star upside, let’s finally tie this whole thing back to the draft. The Astros will get a full draft recap within the next few weeks/months, but, spoiler alert!, the addition of first overall pick Carlos Correa gives them the exact type of franchise-altering cornerstone talent that they’d be foolish to shop for on the trade market. The additions of overslot prep bats Rio Ruiz and Brett Phillips could also play major dividends down the road, though both players come with significant risk.

They stayed true to what I believe is their plan — we’ll call it the “hey, we owe it to our fans to not be terrible for years, so let’s instead try to identify a few cheap, young assets that the people of Houston can watch grow while we bide our time developing star talent in the minors that will make the fans thrilled that they stuck by our side during the lean years” —  by supplementing the high boom/bust factor of Correa, Ruiz, and Phillips with college position players (their draft was curiously short on arms, I’m now noticing) that should move quickly. Few better players embody the average ceiling/big league backup floor archetype better than second round pick Nolan Fontana, and later picks like Tyler Heineman and Dan Gulbransen also fit the mold. Brady Rodgers, the only arm drafted between rounds 2 and 8, is cut from the same cloth. Of course, after all that, it is worth mentioning that Lance McCullers (star-ceiling/big league floor) is proof that the two categories of prospects do not begin to describe all of the prospect types of the spectrum. We’re getting further and further (I reference this in my writing daily, yet still screw it up almost as often) away from my original point, so let’s get back to the recent trades before I get totally lost in the Houston draft wormhole.

Houston is clearly moving in the right direction, and I think their path, from terrible to slightly less terrible to better AND, hopefully, more willing/able to spend to, finally, consistently competitive in the wild AL West will be fascinating to follow. Grossman is a good player, lefthander Rudy Owens is fine, and, finally, Colton Cain was well worth a flier. Fun Colton Cain fact of the day: the newest Astros lefthanded pitcher (well, he’s as new as Owens but you get my point) was once ranked between Jeff Malm (Tampa) and Jonathan Singleton (Houston) on a list of top draft-eligible high school first basemen. I revisited that ranking last summer and wrote the following (non-bold was from last year, bold signifies pre-draft notes from 2009):

2. Colton Cain | Pittsburgh Pirates | 8th Round (2009)

3.13 ERA – 95 IP – 74 K/26 BB – 0.89 GO/AO

Cain is pitching well as a youngster (20 all season) in Low A with the added bonus of still not having a ton of mileage on his arm. His solid 2011 performance was preceded by good performances last year (strong peripherals). I like pitchers like Cain: guys with good enough fastballs to keep getting looks and secondaries that will either click and become legit big league pitches all at once or…not. Of course there is some middle ground between the two outcomes, but not as much as one might think. If you’re patient you may wind up with a three-pitch starting pitcher, but the risk here is fairly self-evident.

first thing that stands about about Cain is his very pretty lefthanded stroke; like a lot of the players on this list has an unusually strong arm for a first base prospect; because of that raw arm strength many scouts like him at least as much on the mound as at the plate; I like him as the prototypical two-way high school player that has the potential to really emerge once he concentrates on hitting full time; Texas commit

I really did prefer him as a hitter back in his high school days, but obviously the Pirates, and, by extension, now the Astros disagree with me. What nerve. I’ll stand by what I wrote last year — “if you’re patient you may wind up with a three-pitch staring pitcher” — though, due to a mostly uninspiring season in high-A (6.12 K/9), I’m less confident in that outcome than I was twelve months ago. As a two-way player (predominantly a hitter) in high school and a pitcher who has missed some developmental time after back surgery, there’s still reason to believe that the light bulb will go off and his low-90s fastball will be joined by a consistent curve and changeup. It is worth repeating that Grossman and the money saved made this deal worth doing for Houston; the addition of Cain, a player the Pirates once paid over a million bucks to pass on Texas, is the lottery ticket. The Astros can’t expect to win the jackpot here, but scratching off the ticket is fun enough in and of itself…plus you never know when you might win a few bucks for your troubles.

***

In the most controversial deal thus far, the Dodgers picked up Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from the Marlins for Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough. Eovaldi is a good get by the Marlins, especially considering the lack of money changing hands in this deal, though I think he ultimately winds up in the bullpen down the line. Take that analysis with a grain of salt, however, as I’ve never really met a Dodgers pitching prospect that I’ve particularly liked. I’m not so dumb to call any one of Zach Lee, Allen Webster, Eovaldi, Chris Reed, Garrett Gould, Chris Withrow, or Aaron Miller bad pitching prospects, but I think each one has been overrated by many of the national pundits. Always was, and remain, a big fan fan of Ethan Martin, so at least there’s that. Don’t hate me Dodgers fans!

The relevant draft piece to this trade is, of course, 2011 fifth round pick Scott McGough. McGough was the 164th overall pick and my own 139th ranked draft prospect heading into the draft. Here’s what I wrote both directly after (plain italics) and before (bold italics) the draft:

Oregon RHP Scott McGough has a fastball with excellent life, a much improved slider that has become an interesting future strikeout pitch, and enough of a low- to mid-80s changeup that leaves you thinking it could be a consistent above-average offering in due time. His profile reminds me a bit of former Angels reliever Scot Shields, but with a better fastball. Having seen both McGough and Reed pitch a few times each in conference play, I’m sticking with my belief that McGough has the brighter professional future.

Oregon JR RHP Scott McGough: 90-92 FB, peak 94-95; 78-79 CB; raw 83 CU; above-average 78-83 SL that flashes plus; potential plus 82-85 CU that is still very raw; working on splitter; great athlete; 6-1, 185 pounds

McGough hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire as a professional (control has been an issue at Rancho Cucamonga), but his career K/9 mark just under 10 in over 70 innings looks damn fine to me. His fastball remains a good pitch and he’ll flash enough above-average offspeed stuff to look like a future big league middle reliever. I’m still likely to look dumb for that McGough > Reed prediction, but if both wind up as solid big league pitchers, well, I could live with that.

Miami/Detroit Trade: From a Draft Perspective

The Ichiro deal to the Yankees may have stolen the headlines, but the more interesting trade on July 23, 2012, from both a recent draft perspective and for the long-term implications, has to be the five player deal between the Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins. You could say the same thing about the players involved in the deal: Anibal Sanchez is a quality arm, and Omar Infante is useful in his own way, but the most interesting players involved in the deal are the three prospects and two draft picks changing hands. Let’s take a quick draft-oriented look back at the three Detroit players who are now the newest members of the Miami Marlins organization.

The obvious key to the deal for Miami was obtaining prized righthanded pitching prospect Jacob Turner. I had Turner rated as the ninth best draft prospect in 2009, and, lo and behold, he went off the board to Detroit at pick number nine. I revisited his stock just eleven months ago (see below), and not enough has changed since then to make a rehashing worth it. I won’t profess to have a great deal of knowledge of Detroit’s player development program, but it sure seems like the scouting department’s love of hard throwers (good!) doesn’t jive with the coaching staff’s peculiar desire to see their arms pitch to contact and get ground balls (not so good). A two player sample may or may not be meaningful depending on your view, but the backslides of both Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner is a tad disconcerting to me.

His repertoire is similar to [Shelby] Miller’s, from the plus-plus fastball to the promising curve and change. Come to think of it, not much has changed from Turner’s high school days, at least in terms of future stuff grades: fastball has always been a weapon, curve still has plus upside, and change is well on its way to becoming a nasty third offering.

  • Good size? Is 6-4, 205 good enough? Check.
  • Good athlete? Solid, if not spectacular. Check.
  • Clean mechanics out of a ¾ delivery? Check.
  • Fastball velocity? How does a peak velocity of 93-94 MPH sound?
  • Good command? Check.
  • Off-speed repertoire? Curveball is already a plus pitch and circle change should be an average big league offering, at worst.
  • College scholarship from a school that knows pitching? If North Carolina wants you to pitch for them, you’re probably a good one. If you decided to Carolina only after turning down Vanderbilt, you’re almost certainly a good one. Those two universities have coaching staffs that really know their pitching. Check.

Rob Brantly was a huge favorite of mine dating back to his earliest days at UC-Riverside. I actually had him ranked as the 2010 MLB Draft’s 32nd best prospect on the annual “way too early” big board back in October 2009. He moved up one spot (31st, for the math-challenged) by February, when I also first compared him to Derek Norris. He finally settled in as the sixth ranked college catching prospect that year. That doesn’t sound great, but when you consider the first two names on the list are already big league players (Bryce Harper and Yasmani Grandal) things don’t seem quite as bad. Mike Kvasnicka (ouch), Micah Gibbs (ouch, again), and Matt Szczur (still a big fan) also fit in to the top five. I also doubled downed on the Derek Norris comp at that point, writing the following:

Originally my favorite four-year college in the 2010 class, Brantly’s sophomore season hasn’t really done too much to hurt his stock, but has nonetheless seen his spot in the rankings slip as other college guys have simply done more. The one and only time (maybe) I’ll lift something directly from the always wonderful Baseball America comes now:

[Redacted] has a strong, compact swing and the ability to make consistent, hard contact to all fields. He has a mature, patient offensive approach, excellent pitch recognition and advanced strike-zone awareness. He has above-average power to the pull side and also good power the other way.

That could very easily be written about Rob Brantly, but it was actually the most recent scouting report on Washington’s Derek Norris. The comparison isn’t perfect, but I think it works as a general outline – big bat, professional strike-zone awareness, solid defensive tools, but not yet a reliable backstop. Norris was a fourth round steal out of high school in 2007; Brantly could be the college equivalent, in round and value, here in 2010.

Obviously, I overshot Brantly’s professional power upside by a pretty wide margin, but I remain a believer in his on-base skills and good enough defense behind the plate. He’s a solid player who is close to big league ready. Once he gets the call, he should settle into a long career as a backup catcher with the chance to break through as the lefthanded strong side of a platoon.

The last piece of the Marlins return is hulking lefthander Brian Flynn. I’ve heard him compared to Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer, a similarly sized (actually listed at the exact same 6-8, 240 pounds) pitcher who relies on deception to help an otherwise average fastball play up. Strong minor league performances thus far give hope that he can stick as a starter, but I think a future in middle relief – where he’d go FB/SL/occasional CU, just like Schwimer – is the most likely outcome.

I was impressed Detroit got a deal done with Wichita State LHP Brian Flynn, a draft-eligible sophomore that many had pegged as likely to return for one more season with the Shockers. Lefties who are 6-8, 240ish pounds and can reach the mid-90s don’t come around too often, but it wasn’t just Flynn’s questionable signability that dropped him to the 7th round. At this precise moment in time, Flynn is a one-pitch pitcher. Even that one pitch, his fastball, isn’t that great an offering when you factor in his inconsistent ability to harness it. If the slider keeps developing and he shows he can work in the occasional change, then we might have a dark horse starting pitching prospect. If not, Flynn will try to make it in the competitive world of professional relief pitching.

As for the pick for pick portion of the trade, I’ll let Baseball America’s Jim Callis, the best in the business, do the writing:

The Marlins gave up the last pick in the supplemental first round (currently No. 37) for the final pick in the supplemental second round (currently No. 73).

This year, the No. 37 selection had an assigned value of $1,394,300 and the No. 73 choice was worth $701,700. That’s a difference of $692,600. Those values will be adjusted based on the growth of industry revenues this year, so how much exactly the Tigers added to their bonus pool and the Marlins subtracted from theirs has yet to be determined.

So, Detroit moves up a round and gets some extra draft spending cash. Seems relatively fair when you consider Anibal Sanchez is a free agent in just over two months. My only concern, and this is admittedly cynical and biased against what I consider an awful Miami ownership group, is that Miami suggested the draft pick swap in a long-term effort to save some money. All in all, however, the trade makes a lot of sense for both sides. Detroit gets a short-term fix in their quest for a championship in 2012: Sanchez is good enough to start the second game of a playoff series if need be and Infante is at least better than what they’ve currently got at second. Miami gets an exciting starting pitching prospect, recent big leagues ups and downs notwithstanding, and two players that should contribute something to the big club within the next year or two. As an outsider, I valued Turner as a shiny enough trade chip to hold out for more, but I understand their urgency in making what they believed was the best deal for them at this time.

Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Fifteen High School RHP (11-15)

I haven’t seen this year’s college guys perform at a showcase environment for the obvious reason that such events don’t exist, but, boy, after getting the chance to watch some of this year’s high school class up close and personal, I just don’t see how the 2012 college players can stack up. More on this to come, of course, but now back to our regularly scheduled retrospective posting…

We’ve done this before, so you know the drill. Prospects 1-10 can be found at the links below while prospects 11-15 can be found below the links. I’ve also included every high school righthander selected in the 2009 Draft’s first ten rounds…

Matt Hobgood – Zack Wheeler – Jacob Turner – Shelby Miller – Brooks Pounders – Garrett Gould – Bryan Berglund – Tanner Bushue – Jake Barrett – Keyvius Sampson – Matt Heidenreich – Brooks Hall – Daniel Tuttle – Nicholas McBride – Damien Magnifico – James Needy – Zack Von Rosenberg – Matt Graham – Steven Inch – Branden Kline – Daniel Reynolds – Trent Stevenson – Brandon Martinez – Josh Hodges – Brody Colvin – Madison Younginer – Aaron Northcraft – Tom Lemke

…as well as a few interesting names of note taken later in the draft:

Mark Appel – Drew Hutchison – Dane Williams – Pierce Johnson – Luke Bard – Jordan Cooper – Dylan Floro – Michael Heller – Scott Griggs – Tanner Poppe – Matt Koch – Justin Bellez – Keifer Nuncio – Michael Morin – Kyle Hansen – Jeff Soptic – Kenny Giles – Hudson Randall – Jeff Ames – Jeff Gibbs – Buck Farmer – Vince Spilker

I think the trio of Miller, Turner, and Wheeler, plus guys like Gould, Sampson, Colvin, and Younginer combine to give the pro prospects of 2009 a leg up on their 2012 college prospect counterparts, but it is closer than I would have initially guessed. There is still enough untapped upside in the arms of Griggs, Barrett, Hansen, Gibbs, Heller, and Jenkins that the gap between the two classes (well, one class really with two divergent paths), though I suppose you could say the same about a half dozen of the underperforming pros on that last, too. The 2012 college guys have their clear star in Appel, as well as complementary parts that sure seem like good bets to be solid pros in guys like Farmer, Stroman, Kline, Morin, Floro, and, yes, even Randall. It should be noted that this analysis of the 2012 college class does not include any prospect not selected as part of the 2009 Draft. That excludes the undrafted Michael Wacha and the drafted in 2010 Kevin Gausman.

11. Michael Heller | Cardinal Mooney HS (FL) | Pittsburgh Pirates | 29th Round (2009)

After a season lost to injury in 2011, Heller’s biggest challenge in 2012 will be getting enough innings to show big league teams that he is a) 100% healthy and b) still in possession of the big league stuff he showed as a high school standout. This could be nothing more than a passing notion, but lately I’ve been thinking of Heller, through no real fault of his own, as a guy who will show a lot more as a pro than he ever did/will do in college. In other words, I’m still on the bandwagon.

Your scorecard may have a different winner than mine, but here’s how it breaks down.

  • Colvin has two inches and ten pounds on Heller (6-4, 190 vs. 6-2, 180)
  • The differences in sitting velocity depend on the day – both sit in the low 90s, but Heller’s peak is a little higher than Colvin’s
  • Both throw straight mid-70s changeups that show promise, but need real work
  • Both feature curves as their top breaking pitch, but Heller’s is a smidge more refined at this point
  • They are both plus athletes and good high school hitters, but Heller is better in both phases of the game

12. Brody Colvin | St. Thomas More HS (LA) | Philadelphia Phillies | 7th Round (2009)

3.87 ERA – 79 IP – 56 K/27 BB – 1.52 GO/AO

More was expected of Colvin in 2011, and justifiably so, but he is still holding his own in High A as a 20 year old. Colvin has also not experienced any kind of dip in stuff as he still throws in the low-90s with two above-average secondary pitches. Recent rumblings out of Clearwater point to a possible return engagement in High A next year.

Colvin’s fastball sits comfortably in the low 90s with potential for growth. His arsenal also features a fairly tight 10-4 curve and an effective straight change. He is a strong commit to LSU and many in the know seem to believe Colvin has a better than average shot at winding up in Baton Rogue. However, like every player on the list, strong college commitments can weaken very quickly once high six figure bonuses (or more) are promised. What I think makes pursuing a prospect like Colvin worthwhile for a team is his promising blend of plus athleticism and strong present stuff.

13. Chris Jenkins | Westfield HS (NJ)

I’m not really sure what has happened to Jenkins since we saw him last, but I’ll play the role of irresponsible journalist and go ahead and assume he was injured in 2011. He heads back to Stanford as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2012. The talent remains, but, unfortunately, so do the questions — command, delivery, injury risk, possibility he’ll stick with Stanford for another year — that held him back as a prep star. One player does not a trend make, but I’m starting to grow increasingly wary of big guys with iffy mechanics. I know, not exactly a bombshell of a revelation on my part, but as somebody who was tantalized by the promise of good Andrew Brackman back in his Wolfpack days (when he was right, he looked soooooo good), it is the first step to admitting that I’m finally on my way to overcoming my “big pitcher = big upside” obsession.

There is plenty to like about Chris Jenkins, namely a heavy fastball that touches 94 MPH and sits in the low 90s, a potential low 80s MPH power slider, a gigantic frame (6-7, 235), and interest from schools like Stanford and Duke. There is also plenty to dislike about Chris Jenkins, namely his spotty command, and high effort delivery. Jenkins’ raw potential is undeniable, but he is a long way away from unlocking it. I know I previously compared Ethan Carter to Jordan Cooper, but perhaps the better comparison is between the two big righties, Carter and Jenkins. Carter has a touch more polish at present, but very few pitchers, Carter included, stack up with Jenkins when it comes to upside.

14. Ethan Carter | Menchville HS (VA)

1.75 ERA – 77 IP – 78 K/9 BB

Carter has arguably had as eventful a two year run as any other pitcher on this list. He was first kicked off the team at South Carolina (note that in his pre-draft report I mentioned his “sterling makeup” – without knowing all the facts, I’ll just say that this scouting business isn’t easy) following his freshman year. Then he enrolled at Louisburg College, where you can see his 2011 numbers above. Getting the boot from your championship winning college team stinks for a lot of reasons, but it must be especially painful to then see said college team win a second straight national championship without you on the team. Now, and this is the fun twist to our tale, the last I’ve heard is that he has been given the green light to head back to South Carolina for his junior year. Whether or not this comes to fruition remains to be seen, but that’s the very latest information I have on the ongoing Ethan Carter soap opera. Lost in all this is that Carter has really interesting stuff, impeccable control, and a big league ready frame.

Truth be told, his stuff is probably a tick better across the board than Cooper’s – slightly better present fastball heat, more advanced and varied breaking stuff, and a real changeup. Carter has a chance to fly up this list with a good spring, something that is easy to envision this big righty with sterling makeup doing.

15. Jordan Cooper | Shelbyville Central HS (TN)

8.76 ERA – 12.1 IP – 8 K/6 BB – 1.33 GO/AO

Cooper went undrafted in 2009, instead opting to follow through on his very strong commitment to Kentucky. It was a surprise (at least to me) to see that he signed this year as a 23rd round choice of the Pittsburgh Pirates as a draft-eligible sophomore. He’s currently making the transition to pro ball as a 21 year old in Short Season ball where early reports cite an improved fastball, the tightening of that slurve (now considered a pretty good slider), and more refined change as reasons why his upside as a big league starting pitcher remains within reach.

Cooper doesn’t possess quite the talent of last year’s prized University of Kentucky recruit and Red Sox draftee Alex Meyer, but his own commitment to join Meyer on the Wildcats staff is one to take seriously. He won’t be an easy sign, but armed with a fastball topping out at 91 MPH, a power breaking ball equal parts CB and SL, and a very strong academic record, it figures a team will still make a strong run at him in the first few rounds if they can think they can work out a deal. As much as teams will be working towards gauging Cooper’s signability, the bigger concern over his eventual draft position may be the injury that caused him to miss his sophomore year. Expect to see Cooper’s medical records getting a very close look this spring.

Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Fifteen High School RHP (6-10)

We started this thing on Monday, so let’s keep it rolling with the next five prospects today. I appreciate the patience — good Wi-Fi seemingly comes and goes with no respect for logic — while I’m on the road doing the whole watching high school players at showcase thing for little to no money. Same basic caveats as last time: Links to the old scouting reports, such as they were, can be found along the way. New commentary is in black, old commentary is in navy blue, and statistics are all current within the last week. Prospects 1-10 are up now, the rest will come shortly.

6. Keyvius Sampson | Ocala Forest HS (FL) | San Diego Padres | 4th Round (2009)

2.95 ERA – 85.1 IP – 98 K/30 BB – 0.72 GO/AO

Not much to add to the line above other than to just reiterate that Sampson is just plain killing it in Low A as a 20 year old. There is still work to be done here — sharpen up fastball command, show more consistency with secondary stuff — but nothing outside the usual when it comes to any talented young hurler.

Sampson is one of the most athletic pitchers in the draft with a sharp curve that has the potential to be a plus pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s and has peaked at 95 MPH. That 95 MPH is his peak thus far; it would be a big upset if he doesn’t top that over and over again as his wiry frame fills out. Sampson’s plus athleticism leads to a very fluid, repeatable delivery (see for yourself above). He also features a good curve (80-81 MPH). I’m comfortable slapping a first round grade on him at this point.

7. Brooks Pounders | Temecula Valley HS (CA) | Pittsburgh Pirates | 2nd Round (2009)

4.02 ERA – 53.2 IP – 59 K/9 BB – 1.02 GO/AO

Pounders is pitching quite well out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh’s Low A team at just 20 years of age. His size (6’4″, 270 pounds) is a concern going forward, but as long as he keeps from getting any wider, expect to hear the inevitable Bobby Jenks comps before long. I’m traditionally biased against wide-body pitchers — note the absence of Matt Hobgood, the high school righthander who went fifth overall in 2009, from these rankings, though in fairness he did finish the year as my 50th overall draft prospect, 10th highest among prep righthanders — but I think I still like Pounders more than Baseball America apparently does. They left him off of the Pirates preseason top 30 altogether.

The first thing to jumps out about Pounders is his size; he has a gigantic frame (6-5, 220), but, more than just that, he really knows how to use his size and strength to his advantage on the mound. He pitches from a downward plane with a heavy fastball (90-94 MPH) that he can put anywhere he wants.

I also love the prep archetype that Pounders fits to a tee. My favorite story about a young pitcher is the one about the guy who “really knows how to pitch,” but then suddenly sees his velocity jump. It’s tricky to find a young pitcher who can be effective without his best stuff, so the players who learned how to pitch before developing the plus stuff can be extremely valuable properties. Pounders showed that advanced feel for pitching back when he was topping out in the mid-80s; now that he throws in the low- to mid-90s, he can apply the lessons he has learned with his new found ace stuff. In Pounders’ case, true ace stuff equals the aforementioned plus fastball, a true spinning slider with plus potential, a curveball that should at least be an above-average pitch, and an effective sinking changeup.

8. Daniel Tuttle | Randleman HS (NC) | Cincinnati Reds | 5th Round (2009)

4.59 ERA – 80.1 IP – 85 K/30 BB – 1.36 GO/AO

Tuttle seemed to be pitching effectively through 11 starts in Low A. That’s the good news. The bad news is he is currently on the Restricted List for the Reds Rookie League team as he serves his 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a second for testing positive for a second time for a “drug of abuse” on July 19th.

Finally, some real separation. The pitchers from this point on all offer something unique that sets them apart from the rest of the field. Tuttle’s breaking ball, a plus 10-4 slider with tight spin, is the pitch that sets him apart. The slider/sinker combo should serve him in inducing groundballs going forward, and a solid changeup makes for a usable fourth pitch. Prep pitchers with two plus pitches (the slider and a fastball that sits 90-94 MPH) tend to go high on draft day, and Tuttle should be no exception.

9. Mark Appel | Monte Vista HS (CA) 

3.56 FIP – 110.1 IP – 7.42 K/9 – 2.20 BB/9

Mark Appel…for some reason that name rings a bell. Couldn’t be that he is considered the current favorite to land atop Houston’s draft board as the 2012 MLB Draft’s first overall pick, could it? Appel’s plus-plus fastball, plus slider, and emerging changeup, all in addition to a big league frame, repeatable delivery, and great athleticism, help build him a case as the top pitching prospect to come out of this class. I’d have him ahead of a few big names like Wheeler, Sampson, and, yes, Hobgood and at least as high as third best at this point, but would find it very difficult to pass on either Miller or Turner if given the choice between the three.

Appel’s strong verbal commitment to Stanford will drop him down draft boards, but he is a great athlete, with a wiry frame with room to fill out, an impressive hard slider, solid change, and the ability to play around with his fastball (mostly by cutting and sinking it). The Cardinal normally get their man, so Appel’s signability will be something to keep on eye on.

10. Matt Graham | Oak Ridge HS (TX) | San Francisco Giants | 6th Round (2009)

7.34 ERA – 41.2 IP – 23 K/29 BB – 2.13 GO/AO

Graham was, to literally put it as nicely as I can think of, pitching not so well in both Low A and then back down in Short Season ball. His fall from grace reminds me a bit of a more extreme version of what happened to current Royals prospect and fellow one-time draft favorite Tim Melville. On the bright side, there’s still plenty of time for Graham to turn it all around!

Matt Graham holds a special place in my heart as the most difficult player to find a spot for in the rankings. Last year at this time it wasn’t strange to see Graham listed on lists of the top ten amateur players in the country. Fast forward twelve months and it is debatable as to whether or not he is a top ten righthanded high school pitcher. Graham’s slide coincided with the disappearance of his good stuff, most notably a big decline in fastball velocity. He followed the disappointing end to his junior season with a strong rebound on the summer showcase circuit. If his resurgence continues into the spring, expect to hear a lot of buzz surrounding the sturdy Texan with a potential plus fastball, good curve, and a heavy sinker.

Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Fifteen High School RHP (1-5)

Much has changed in my life since 2009. When I started the site I was fresh out of college, back at home for a brief stay (no, not in my mother’s basement…we don’t have a basement, so there!), and looking for work. I enjoyed working on the site in my ample free time and was generally a pretty happy camper. Now I sit here gainfully employed, paying rent as often as I remember to, and, against all odds, still quite happy to while away my rare scraps of free time trying to put up something interesting to read on the site. The more things change, the more things stay the same, you know?

One thing that has definitely changed, both with the site and in my life in general, has been the degree of wimpiness I approach “scary” things with. The older, wiser me has no time to waste on self-doubt anymore. I would once freak out if Baseball America didn’t rank a guy I had in my top twenty in their top hundred, choosing to assume that, as the industry leaders, they obviously knew something I didn’t. Honestly, with their resources and collective brain power, they often do know something I don’t. Often is the operative word there; often is much different than always. Nowadays I’m less inclined to automatically jump to the conclusion that they have to be right and I have to be wrong. It is much more fun to take position that, hey, maybe I’ve heard something that hasn’t yet made it to the mainstream than always assuming the other way around.

These were good rankings and I wish I had stuck with them more than I did. Instead, I waffled and switched things up without really thinking things over, at least not in the way I do so now. My top 13 high school RHSPs by draft day were, in order: Jacob Turner – Shelby Miller – Zack Wheeler – Garrett Gould – Brody Colvin – Madison Younginer – Keyvius Sampson – Jake Barrett – Zack Von Rosenberg – Matt Hobgood – Ryan Buch – Michael Heller – Scott Griggs. A solid list, sure, but not one that I could justify to my liking if ever called out on it. How much did I really know about Garrett Gould, outside of the fact both Baseball America and Perfect Game had him as a late rising helium guy, before I shot him up my draft board? Why not stick to my guns a little bit more and stand by the prospects that I did the legwork on myself? I’m not saying it pays to be stubborn and ignore new information as it comes — that’s ridiculous, obviously — but I do think the rush to alter rankings based on what the industry leaders put out is a temptation that did me far more harm than good back in the day. I remember specifically boosting Gould and Younginer, deserving prospects both by the way, based almost exclusively on what I read about them from Baseball America in the two weeks leading up to draft day. I’m transparent enough to admit I’m still a huge fan of the work done by the team at Baseball America (and Perfect Game…and countless other excellent independent sites run in a similar fashion to this one) and consider their scouting updates an invaluable resource that helps confirm or deny reports I’ve put together myself. I guess that right there is progress in and of itself; using Baseball America as a last resort to confirm or deny original reports I’ve worked to obtain is a step above relying on them as my sole provider for information (with ample citing, of course!) like I used to.

Links to the old scouting reports, such as they were, can be found along the way. New commentary is in black, old commentary is in navy blue, and statistics are all current within the last week. Prospects 1-5 are up now, the rest will come as the week progresses.

1. Shelby Miller | Brownwood HS (TX) | St. Louis Cardinals | 19th Overall (2009)

2.57 ERA – 112 IP – 139 K/38 BB – 0.77 GO/AO

Miller had an even split of 53 innings in High A and 53 innings in AA when I sat down to write the first draft of this piece. It takes very little to amaze a simple fellow like me, so I was pretty geeked to use that perfectly equal innings comparison as a jumping off point in the Miller discussion. Sadly, that original draft is in the internet ether somewhere, on account of WordPress not being able to handle switching from Full Screen mode to whatever they call it when you aren’t in Full Screen mode. I was so mad that I lost an hour’s worth of work that I put this on the shelf for a few days, only to return to see Miller now has a much less exciting to compare 53 innings in High A and 59 innings in AA.

There might be a team or two in the minors  that can look at the Cardinals minor league pitching depth with a feeling other than outright envy, but no more than that. Miller’s development from stud prep arm to stud pro arm makes him one of the crown jewels of St. Louis’ minor league staff. He joins Carlos Martinez and Tyrell Jenkins in the system as potential top of the rotation starting pitchers. His fastball has jumped in velocity (as expected) and is now seen as a plus-plus pitch, and both his curve and change look like legit big league out pitches at times. The competition for best high school pitching prospect rages on to this day, but Miller remains the best long-term bet from where I’m sitting (a bright red IKEA couch I kind of hate).

Miller’s fastball sits between the upper 80s and the low 90s (88-92), and he is capable of dialing it up to 93/94 MPH when necessary. His frame is reminiscent of those of Matt Graham, Scott Griggs, Daniel Tuttle, and Zack Wheeler (remember how there is a thin line separating all of these righties?), so everything positive suggested about those other players’ bodies filling out accompanied by velocity pick-me-ups apply to Miller as well. This is a pretty good class of high school pitching when it comes to velocity, so it’s easy to lose sight of how rare it is to see a high schooler with such a fine combo of mid-90s heat, workable (or better) secondary stuff, and better than average command. Take a look at big league starting pitchers with legit mid-90s peak velocities some time. I bet you’ll be surprised at the disparity between fastball speed perception and reality. I know I was.

His offspeed stuff is quality, with a mid-70s curveball (potential plus pitch alert) and an 80 MPH changeup. I’ve heard of a slider being worked on, but don’t have any concrete information to actually comment on it. His command is good, not great, but good command out of a high school pitcher is a fine jumping off point.

Miller’s delivery looks clean and his arm action loose and easy, but what stands out about his mechanics is his tremendous balance. His excellent mechanics help lead to one of Miller’s standout attributes – his uncanny ability to hold velocity late into ballgames. Reports have Miller hitting his peak velocities (93/94 MPH) even as his pitch counts vaulted past the century mark late in the season. We talked earlier about having a special skill that helps you stand out – great velocity and the ability to muscle up enough to hold it late into games is one of Miller’s defining characteristics as a young prospect.

2. Jacob Turner | Westminster Academy (MO) | Detroit Tigers | 9th Overall (2009)

3.48 ERA – 113.2 IP – 90 K/32 BB – 1.22 GO/AO

Turner is sort of the anti-Shelby Miller. Before jumping all over me for that, I promise the comparison is not based on anything between the lines. As outlined above, Miller is but one part of the Cardinals three-headed monster of potential big league impact righthanded starting pitchers. Turner, on the other hand, is the cheese that stands alone in a Detroit farm system bereft of anything resembling a righthanded starting pitching prospect. The numbers above show what Turner has accomplished in his Age 20 season in AAA. They numbers don’t reflect how well he acquitted himself (5.1 IP 3 H 2 ER 3 BB 6 K) in his big league debut on Saturday in a loss to the Angels. His repertoire is similar to Miller’s, from the plus-plus fastball to the promising curve and change. Come to think of it, not much has changed from Turner’s high school days, at least in terms of future stuff grades: fastball has always been a weapon, curve still has plus upside, and change is well on its way to becoming a nasty third offering.

Also, and please don’t judge me, I couldn’t help but notice that Turner’s full name is Jacob Edward Turner. If nothing else, he’ll have a built-in tween audience once he reaches the big leagues to stay. For now, he’ll head to AAA.

  • Good size? Is 6-4, 205 good enough? Check.
  • Good athlete? Solid, if not spectacular. Check.
  • Clean mechanics out of a ¾ delivery? Check.
  • Fastball velocity? How does a peak velocity of 93-94 MPH sound?
  • Good command? Check.
  • Off-speed repertoire? Curveball is already a plus pitch and circle change should be an average big league offering, at worst.
  • College scholarship from a school that knows pitching? If North Carolina wants you to pitch for them, you’re probably a good one. If you decided to Carolina only after turning down Vanderbilt, you’re almost certainly a good one. Those two universities have coaching staffs that really know their pitching. Check.

3. Mychal Givens | Plant HS (FL) | Baltimore Orioles | 2nd Round (2009)

.231/.298/.282 – 372 AB – 24 BB/55 K – 13/21 SB

It’s probably a bit premature to say I was wrong for ranking Givens the third best high school pitching prospect in the country back in 2009, but…alright, I’m not sure how to finish this sentence. There’s still ample time for Givens to turn it around, either as a middle infielder or after a conversion to the mound (fingers crossed!), but his first two pro seasons have been undeniably rough.

His first full year was all but lost due to a busted thumb. This year he flunked in a trial at Low A to start the season, but is now doing better in Short Season ball where he is back playing SS after sliding to 2B in deference to better prospects Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop while playing for Delmarva. The positive spin here is that, due to his injury in 2010, he’s developmentally right where he should be, despite being older than you’d like in Short Season ball.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of prospect Givens would be if given the chance to develop as a professional pitcher instead of a position player. His fastball made such an impression on me when I saw him in high school, I thought it could almost single-handedly get him to the big leagues, at least as a reliever.

Givens has arguably the top fastball in this year’s high school class. His speedball has been clocked anywhere from 96-98 MPH. The beautiful thing is that his best pitch defines the term “velocity” in that the vector physical quantity of the pitch covers both the speed and direction of the baseball. Givens’ fastball isn’t just fast, it sinks and moves all over the place. Givens’ slider and change both need much refinement, but his overwhelming fastball and overall pitching aptitude — he plays short when not pitching and may be the top prep middle infielder in his class, yet still shows good feel on the mound – make him a premium prospect. As of now, Givens’ reminds me a little bit of Kyle Drabek, minus Drabek’s excellent spike curve.

4. Zack Wheeler – East Paulding HS (Texas) | San Francisco Giants | 6th Overall (2009)

3.99 ERA – 88 IP – 98 K/47 BB – 1.35 GO/AO

The numbers are from Wheeler’s time with the Giants High A team. He’s now with the Mets organization after being dealt by San Francisco for star outfielder Carlos Beltran. Beltran is an awesome talent and an excellent pickup for the offensive starved Giants, but Wheeler was a pretty price to pay for a two plus month rental. In what seems typical of high round prep pitchers, Wheeler’s fastball is already a well above-average big league offering, but his secondary stuff (curve looks alright, change/splitter has a ways to go) has stagnated as a pro. I’ve always been bullish on young pitchers with outrageous athleticism and plus fastballs, so consider me a fan of the newest member of the New York Mets family.

Zack Wheeler has the kind of frame that scouts everywhere love to dream on. He’s a lanky 6-4, 180 (lanky, but athletic – Wheeler can get above the rim and throw down 360 dunks) with plenty of room to fill out, and, if things go according to plan, capable of adding some serious velocity. If Wheeler was throwing in the high-80s, he’d be a very intriguing prospect based on the prospect of physical maturity and increased heat alone. However, the kid is already sitting comfortably in the low-90s (91-92) and has hit 94-95 MPH on the gun out of the bullpen at the summer showcases. Add a couple of ticks to that fastball and you are really on to something. Wheeler’s very good curve, power slider, and burgeoning splitter all complement the fastball well.

5. Scott Griggs | San Ramon Valley HS (CA) | Seattle Mariners | 34th Round (2009)

2.44 FIP – 17.2 IP – 11.21 K/9 – 10.19 BB/9

Griggs is one of my favorite college arms eligible for the 2012 Draft, but even I have to admit that his generous placement on my big board is highly speculative at this point. He’s currently 43rd on said list of top 2012 MLB Draft talents. His fastball remands an explosive pitch, and both his curve and change — apparently FB/CB/CU were the cool pitches back in 2009 — flash above-average (or better in the case of the change) at times. Funny that I praised his command back in high school when one of the biggest concerns about him after two years of college is whether or not he’ll throw enough strikes as a pro. I realize command and control are different things, but, hey, still funny to me.

Scott Griggs pitches in the low-90s, peaking at 95 MPH, with an above-average change that should be a plus pitch before long. What makes Griggs stand apart from the rest of the crowd (besides the big-time heater) is his impeccable command. This isn’t run of the mill “good for a high schooler” command, this is major league quality, plus potential command. Another quality that I like about Griggs is his sneaky, deceptive delivery. He hides the ball well allowing his already fast fastball to appear, well, even faster.

Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft Top Ten High School First Basemen

In simpler, far more innocent times, a young scamp with nothing but a few connections, a love of baseball, and a dream sat down in his mother’s basement to rank a bunch of first basemen a few weeks in advance of the 2009 MLB Draft. If I had to do it all over again I think Singleton would be on top, followed closely by Jeff Malm and then Telvin Nash.

If we forget about my list and look strictly at where the players were selected on draft day, we’d have an order of Nash (3rd Round), Malm (5th), Singleton (8th), Geoffrey Baldwin (11th), Corey Davis (15th), and Ronald Sanchez (16th). Nash, Malm, Singleton, and Baldwin are all covered below, but I had to do some digging on Davis and Sanchez.

Assuming I found the right Corey Davis, he’s coming off a season where he hit .397/.486/.662 with 26 BB and 26/27 SB as a sophomore at Walters State CC. Not bad, right? Sanchez, however, signed out of high school and is currently hitting below .200 without a homer in almost 300 professional at bats so far for Houston. He is far too young to write off completely — a theme you’ll find throughout these rankings — but it’s probably not a positive that he has more errors at first (11) than extra base hits (9) as a pro.

The rankings below are from 2009 and don’t reflect current value. Stats are current as of earlier this week. New commentary comes first and the old scouting blurb is in beautiful navy.

1. Jeff Malm | Tampa Bay Rays | 5th Round Pick (2009)

.308/.439/.633 – 19 BB/27 K – 120 AB

Love it or hate it, Tampa has a developmental philosophy that they stick to almost no matter what. They stand by their strict slow and steady developmental path unlike any organization I can remember. Malm has gone from a short stint in one Rookie league (GCL Rays) in 2009, a longer (200 AB) run with another Rookie league team in 2010 (Princeton Rays), and is now in Short Season ball, where he is flourishing. He’ll be 21 going into what is hopefully his first shot at full season ball next spring. I’ll admit to being pretty stunned Malm couldn’t crack an admittedly loaded Tampa Bay top 30, at least according to Baseball America. I’m a huge Baseball America defender, but, come on, Malm really wasn’t good enough a prospect to rank ahead of Leslie Anderson (28th ranked in organization) on their system-wide first base depth chart?

good size (6-2, 220); plenty of pop to stick at first long-term; above-average defensive player with a fantastic throwing arm; not sure he couldn’t stick in RF if given enough reps with professional instruction and if he puts enough time in the gym; part of a star studded Southern Cal class that will never set foot on campus including Jiovanni Mier, Brooks Pounders, and Matt Davidson; judging solely by the bat and no other tool, he stacks up surprisingly well with other prep players including Myers, Bailey, Borchering, Davidson, and maybe an unnamed outfielder or two to be determined…

2. Colton Cain | Pittsburgh Pirates | 8th Round (2009)

3.13 ERA – 95 IP – 74 K/26 BB – 0.89 GO/AO

Cain is pitching well as a youngster (20 all season) in Low A with the added bonus of still not having a ton of mileage on his arm. His solid 2011 performance was preceded by good performances last year (strong peripherals). I like pitchers like Cain: guys with good enough fastballs to keep getting looks and secondaries that will either click and become legit big league pitches all at once or…not. Of course there is some middle ground between the two outcomes, but not as much as one might think. If you’re patient you may wind up with a three-pitch starting pitcher, but the risk here is fairly self-evident.

first thing that stands about about Cain is his very pretty lefthanded stroke; like a lot of the players on this list has an unusually strong arm for a first base prospect; because of that raw arm strength many scouts like him at least as much on the mound as at the plate; I like him as the prototypical two-way high school player that has the potential to really emerge once he concentrates on hitting full time; Texas commit

3. Jonathan Singleton | Philadelphia Phillies | 8th Round (2009)

.284/.387/.406 – 53 BB/79 K – 303 AB

Long-term readers of the site may remember that I’m a Phillies fan. I try my best to be fair and balanced, but I’m only human. Well this human is an unabashed Singleton fan. He absolutely killed it his first two pro seasons, and is now hitting pretty well after a slow start. I’ve always walked away impressed with his gorgeous swing, excellent balance, and overall approach to hitting. I have no insider knowledge on what the Phillies think about his eventual defensive home, but he looked far more competent in left field than I had expected. Long the subject of trade rumors, wherever he winds up next year — left or first, Philadelphia or Houston — he’ll hit. Bonus points for being likely to start his age 20 season at AA next year.

very real plus power, both raw and present; many rough edges to his game, but he impressed many scouts this spring with his willingness to work towards improving his approach; can get too pull heavy at times, but again that raw power is hard to ignore; intriguing potential pick because he possesses a bat with the clear upside of a first baseman without needing a potential position switch to enhance his value, something that is surprisingly rare among non-elite (high first round) prep first basemen; well above average defender who has gotten better around the bag with every passing year of his prep career; Long Beach State commit

4. KC Hobson | Toronto Blue Jays | 6th Round (2009)

.252/.355/.328 – 51 BB/56 K – 326 AB

Funny how well Hobson’s pre-draft scouting reports match up with his pro performance so far: his approach has always been sound but his power upside remains in question. Hobson still gets high marks for his hit tool and overall approach, so his once high stock has remained mostly unchanged.

not enough foot speed to play anywhere but first base, so the pressure is really on Hobson’s bat becoming a major weapon; gap power that projects to home run power down the line, but his swing mechanics may need retooling after signing to untap power potential; yet another plus arm; Texas A&M commit

5. Telvin Nash | Houston Astros | 3rd Round (2009)

.287/.400/.487 – 26 BB/46 K – 150 AB

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see the raw Nash hitting as well as he so far in 2011. As a righthander with significant power, he’s very much one of the brightest spots in a weak Astros system. For the record, he’s played as much OF as 1B this year.

above-average power potential and a strong arm; outstanding athlete with well above-average foot speed who should be capable of playing a corner outfield spot with little problem; Kennesaw State commit

6. Ethan Bright 

Bright was last seen (by me, at least) putting up a line of .348/.408/.449 (6 BB/16 K) in 89 AB for Hinds CC after his dismissal from Mississippi State. Sorry I can’t offer much more than that, but probably not as sorry as Bright, who has thus far missed out on chance of being the eight player with the last name Bright to be drafted to a big league team.

in what is probably more of a weird coincidence than anything else, Bright has been compared to a couple of Canadian stars – his body has been compared to Justin Morneau’s (6-5, 230) and his bat control has been compared to Larry Walker’s; average power potential for the position (20ish homer peak), but the aforementioned ability to control the zone is intriguing; Mississippi State commit

7. Geoffrey Baldwin | Kansas City Royals | 10th Round (2009)

Baldwin struggled mightily in 2010 (.460 OPS in 174 AB) but much of that can be forgiven as rumors of family issues swirled. In what is likely not a coincidence, Baldwin has not played at all in 2011 and is currently on the Restricted List.

potential plus defense and a well above-average athlete; slow runner who is stuck at first; yes, he’s got a strong arm; with a frame that suggests future growth, Baldwin’s potential alone would probably put him fourth on the list, but it takes a little wishcasting to picture a future where he puts it all together; a Nebraska commit

8. Breck Ashdown 

From undrafted to Oregon State and now to Notre Dame, Ashdown has seen it all. He’ll be a draft-eligible sophomore at Notre Dame and 23 years old by the time the 2012 MLB Draft rolls around.

ML-frame (6-4, 210); potentially above-average defensively with a plus throwing arm; above-average athlete with, you guessed it, above-average speed on the basepaths; bat has been more good than great, but his frame does lead some to believe more power is coming; all told, he’s a well-rounded prospect that does a lot of things well, but doesn’t feature that one stand out tool that makes him look like a sure-fire future big league first baseman; Oregon State commit who may be best taking his plus arm to Corvallis as a two-way player

9. Rudy Flores

.300/.378/.500 – 27 BB/60 K – 230 AB

Flores has shown big power since stepping on campus at Florida International and is now one of the better college first base prospects around. I saw him on tape this past year and came away impressed with his bat speed, pretty swing, and above-average present lefthanded power.

excelled against high level competition, but questions remain about the development of his bat at the professional level; good lefty power, good frame (6-3, 205), and a good arm (high-80s fastball), but borderline top ten round pick who may not get paid enough to sway him from following through on his commitment to Florida International

10. Kelly Dugan | Philadelphia Phillies | 2nd Round (2009)

.268/.320/.348 – 8 BB/24 K – 5/5 SB – 138 AB

After the draft I upgraded Dugan’s ceiling from Casey Kotchman (see below) to a poor man’s Lance Berkman in an attempt to talk myself into the selection (again, Phillies fan here), but he’s three years in and still in Short Season ball. That isn’t encouraging. My man on the scene who has seen a lot of Dugan since he signed has been effusive in his praise — mainly, that everything he hits is right on the nose and he’s got that special line drive sound working for him — but the numbers aren’t pretty. It was a massive overdraft at the time, and it doesn’t look any better with the benefit of hindsight.

my personal dilemma with Dugan is fairly simple…the main reason I have him higher than most is also the thing that scares me from putting him any higher; watch Dugan swing a bat and you can see he has the innate ability to wait, wait, wait…and then snap his wrists through the zone; spin that another way and you can say he lacks appropriate pull power for a first baseman due to a slow bat; a professional conditioning program and a tweak or two to his swing setup could give him that split second of bat speed missing to make him a doubles machine reminiscent of a young Casey Kotchman; I’d take the big money and go forth towards reaching my ultimate dream 99 times out of 100, but if I had a scholarship to play baseball in Malibu for Pepperdine like Dugan has…well, I’d have to think long and hard about that one – we’ll see what he does in a few months

Draft Retrospective: All Senior Prospect Team (Class of ’09)

I wish I could go back and compare this list with other seniors drafted in 2009, but there doesn’t appear to be a draft database that gets that specific and I don’t have the patience/time/energy to sort through the names myself. It is still pretty interesting to see what some of the top seniors from 2009 are up to now, so let’s dive right in and check on the players from my All Senior Prospect Team (Class of ’09):

C Preston Clark

Not exactly setting the world in fire with this first name, but I couldn’t dig up anything on Preston Clark after his senior season at Texas.

1B Luke Anders | Texas A&M | San Francisco Giants | 32nd Round (2009)

.251/.346/.423 – 35 BB/63 K – 267 AB

Every organization has a Luke Anders or two bouncing around the minors. He’s a very typical college slugger just a bit too old for his level but still doing just enough with the bat to “protect” some of the younger prospects around him. The line you see above is for a 24 year old in High A, by the way. Not super old for his league, but first base is a really tough position to make an impression and time might be running out on Anders. Also, his last name makes me think of Workaholics, a show I like way more than I probably should.

2B Seth Henry | Tulane | Tampa Bay Rays | Undrafted Free Agent

Henry struggled in both ’09 and ’10 and has since been released. Unfortunate ending, for sure, but I give any undrafted player who manages to catch on with a big league organization a ton of credit for chasing that dream.

3B Chris Dominguez | Louisville | San Francisco Giants | 3rd Round (2009)

.284/.326/.465 – 24 BB/110 K – 391 AB

Dominguez was the most exciting senior hitter on my list at the time, a position backed up by his lofty third round draft selection. His above numbers are his combined line between High A and AA as a 24 year old. I still love the tools — most notably his big raw power and plus-plus arm — and think his floor remains solid four-corners power hitting utility guy.

SS Ben Orloff | UC Irvine | Houston Astros | 9th Round (2009)

.317/.398/.411 – 17 BB/16 K – 8/14 SB – 202 AB

Orloff has played really well this year, as his numbers attest, but it is very curious to me that a 24 year old has gone through the system so slowly. I couldn’t be totally off here, mostly on account of me not knowing anything pertaining to the inner workings of the Houston farm system, but it makes no sense to have Orloff still in Low A.

OF Cory Harrilchak | Elon | Atlanta Braves | 14th Round (2009)

.243/.316/.374 – 31 BB/50 K – 9/16 SB – 305 AB

Harrilchak is an easy player to root for; as a fan of a division rival, consider that the highest of praise. He’ll never hit for much power, but all of his other four tools are at least average and he’s the type of player that will work to have those average tools play up. He’s 23 years old and in AA, but it won’t be too long until he’s a backup outfielder somewhere in the big leagues.

OF Ryan Lollis | Missouri | San Francisco Giants | 37th Round (2009)

.288/.371/.374 – 26 BB/33 K – 5/8 SB – 219 AB

Lollis has a similar line to Orloff, but, unfortunately also like Orloff, he’s spent most of 2011 in Low A as a 24 year old.

OF Matt Long | Santa Clara | Los Angeles Angels | 30th Round (2009)

.304/.386/.531 – 46 BB/64 K – 18/28 SB – 382 AB

Long has hit well as a 24 year old in High A, but it should be pointed out that he is doing this in the very hitter friendly Cal League. Call me crazy, but I think there is enough power, speed, and plate discipline here to make him an interesting sleeper. His defensive ability, of which I have no idea of, could make or break him as he moves up the chain.

RHP Scott Bittle | Mississippi | St. Louis Cardinals | 4th Round (2009)

8.44 ERA – 5.1 IP – 6 K/8 BB – 0.29 GO/AO

I’m almost too bummed out to write anything about Bittle, one of my all-time favorite college pitchers to watch. He was consistently banged up in college, wound up with a nasty shoulder injury in the pros, and is now 24 and just getting his feet wet in Short-Season ball. At least he was when I originally wrote that earlier this week. He’s since been released. Such a bummer.

RHP Preston Guilmet | Arizona | Cleveland Indians | 9th Round (2009)

1.74 ERA – 41.1 IP – 45 K/7 BB – 0.86 GO/AO

Guilmet’s funky delivery, abundance of offspeed slop, and consistently outstanding strikeout/walk numbers has me looking forward to the Preston Guilmet, MLB reliever era. He turns 24 today and is thus far killing it in High A. Part of me regrets picking him over Adam Warren (Yankees), but I still loyal to my guy.

RHP Louis Coleman | Louisiana State | Kansas City Royals | 5th Round (2009)

1.88 ERA – 43 K/17 BB – 38.1 IP

What can you say about Coleman? He’s currently lighting it up in the big leagues and is hopefully on the precipice of a ten year big league career.

LHP Miers Quigley | Alabama

Sometimes banking on a top prep arm rediscovering what once made them so great doesn’t work out. Swing and a miss…

LHP Chris Rusin | Kentucky | Chicago Cubs | 4th Round (2009)

3.96 ERA – 88.2 IP – 56 K/17 BB – 2.03 GO/AO

Rusin was good in both 2009 and 2010 and is one of the quicker movers on this list now that he’s made it to AAA. Most of his year has been spent in AA, so keep that in mind when looking at his combined numbers above. Between his high draft pedigree, good enough peripherals for a potential reliever, and interesting ground ball numbers, we could be looking at a future big league bullpen piece.

LHP Wes Musick | Houston | Colorado Rockies | 9th Round (2009)

5.34 ERA – 28.2 IP – 31 K/12 BB – 0.77 GO/AO

Musick was dealt back home to Houston in the Matt Lindstrom trade. His ERA may not be pretty, but the K/BB ratio looks good for a young lefty pitching mostly in High A.

Draft Retrospective: 2009 MLB Draft – Junior College Prospects

The original list of top 2009 junior college prospects is here. I added current minor league numbers and some quick commentary for each player. There were definitely some misses on the original list, but mostly in the way of omissions, as you’ll read at the end of the post. The ten guys on the actual original list, however, all wound up drafted or at four-year university the next year. That might not sound like much, and maybe it isn’t, but for one of the very first lists I ever put together (and with a relatively early post date of February at that) it wasn’t too terrible.

1. RHP Jake Cowan | San Jacinto CC | Baltimore Orioles | 10th Round (2009)

4.46 ERA – 36.1 IP – 37 K/16 BB – 0.87 GO/AO

The numbers put up in seven starts aren’t bad by any stretch, but the fact that Cowan is 23 years old and still pitching in Short-Season A Ball for the New York-Penn League’s Aberdeen IronBirds isn’t exactly ideal. I’m still a believer in Cowan, though it was interesting to read that he leans so heavily on his curve and change rather than his above-average fastball.

2. RHP Ryan Weber | St. Petersburg CC | Atlanta Braves | 17th Round (2009)

2.68 ERA – 43.2 IP – 32 K/8 BB – 1.76 GO/AO

Weber’s done a solid job at an age-appropriate level — he’ll be 21 next month and in the Low A South Atlantic League — but a recent injury has landed him on the 7-Day DL. It comes at a bad time as he’s been stretched out to start after starting the year in the bullpen. Weber still looks like a future big league reliever to me, though it may take a trade to reach that ceiling. Hard to project any Low A arm into Atlanta’s big league bullpen this far out considering how stacked their young bullpen looks already.

3. RHP Daniel Webb | Northwest Florida State CC | Toronto Blue Jays | 18th Round (2010)

5.97 ERA – 57.1 IP – 45 K/23 BB – 2.16 GO/AO

The Low-A Lansing Lugnuts starter has been on the shelf since early June. Worth noting that he has been much better against righthanders than lefties. Webb still throws hard, but his command problems stemming from an inconsistent release point persist to this day.

4. RHP Kendall Korbal | Blinn CC | San Diego Padres | 21st Round (2009)

I called him Kendal Korban back in 2009. Pretty impressive that I was able to mess up both his first name and his last name, if you think about it. Injuries have set Kendall Korbal back to the point he has yet to throw a professional inning. The always informative MadFriars.com filled in some of the blanks. Cliff Notes version: Tommy John surgery was needed right after Korbal’s signing, rehab didn’t go quite as planned, and he has since been released. None other than Paul DePodesta was pretty excited about him pre-injury:

“20 years old and 6’6″, 210 lbs, Kendall has a fastball that reaches 93 and the makings of solid secondary pitches. He could end up as a starter or a reliever with power stuff.”

I remember command being an issue pre-injury and, as often noted, the comeback from Tommy John surgery often impacts command as much as velocity. Sounds like this could have been the case here. He’s young enough that he could resurface if healthy.

5. LHP Shawn Sanford | Palomar CC 

Sanford transferred to San Diego State, but fell off the map after the 2010 season. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing. At first I thought he shrunk a few inches, learned how to throw righthanded, transferred to South Florida, and got himself drafted by the Giants. Wrong Shawn Sanford.

6. LHP Mike Rayl | Palm Beach CC | Cleveland Indians | 15th Round (2009)

2.83 ERA – 82.2 IP – 84 K/13 BB – 0.89 GO/AO

Rayl has put up the best pro numbers of any player on the list so far with over a strikeout per inning and 17 good starts as a 22-year old in Low-A. 6’5″ lefties with consistently strong performances get noticed in time. He won’t reach the heights of his 2009 draft peers — Alex White and Jason Kipnis have both already reached the big leagues — but shouldn’t be completely dismissed as a future bullpen arm down the line.

7. LHP Chad Bell | Walters State CC | Texas Rangers | 14th Round (2009)

3.35 ERA – 37.2 IP – 34 K/15 BB – 1.29 GO/AO

Finally we get a prospect playing above Low-A ball! Bell has pitched well out of the bullpen for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in High-A. Interesting to note that he has rarely been called in to pitch just one inning (or less) instead often going two full innings or more. I had Bell pegged as a pitchabilty lefthander with just barely enough stuff to survive going forward, but an uptick in fastball velocity (sitting 88-92 with the chance for more), a much improved curveball, and a reliably steady change make him a worthy challenger for big league innings down the road.

8. LHP Patrick Corbin | Chipola CC | Los Angeles Angels | 2nd Round (2009)

3.84 ERA – 119.2 IP – 111 K/26 BB – 1.34 GO/AO

Now we’re cooking. Tyler Skaggs may have been the centerpiece that went to Arizona in the Dan Haren, but Corbin is no slouch. I suppose you don’t need me telling you this, considering his lofty draft status and Baseball America’s top ten prospect ranking (9th on Arizona’s list, to be exact). I thought he’d fit best in a big league bullpen back in the day, and I still kind of do, but the possibility that he can take his darting fastball, above-average slider, and much improved changeup to a big league rotation is now very real. His strong AA performance keeps him on track to make his big league debut at some point in 2012.

9. LHP Kevin Gelinas | Central Arizona CC

Not only did I like Gelinas as a junior college pitcher, I liked him as a college pitcher after he transferred to UC Santa Barbara. His is a sad story, however, as the once promising and twice drafted (’09 and ’10) lefthander couldn’t stay healthy enough to make it three years in a row. I’ve looked in to see if he had latched on as an undrafted free agent anywhere, but haven’t found anything positive to report. Injuries, man – hate ‘em.

10. OF Runey Davis | Howard CC | Chicago Cubs | 12th Round (2009)

.353/.461/.600 – 16 BB/27 K – 85 AB – 4/6 SB

Two subpar years have all been erased by Davis’s recent dominant run for the Idaho Falls Chukars. Alright, not really…but it’s a start. Davis was let go by the Cubs and added to the Royals squad this past March, but his quality 2011 numbers have to be taken with a rather large grain of salt considering his age (22) and current level of play. If his speed plays as well as I thought then he could still make it to the bigs somewhere, someday considering the way teams tend to be patient with true centerfielders with plus tools.

*****

The next five players on my original list were OF David Stewart (Grayson County CC), RHP Brett Bruening (Grayson County CC), RHP Rey Cotilla (Miami-Dade CC), C Miles Hamblin (Howard CC), and RHP Jason Townsend (Chipola CC). Out of those five, I’d say Townsend, who wound up a 31st round pick of the Pirates by way of the University of Alabama, qualifies as the most promising prospect.

Limiting my search to the top five rounds only, I found six other junior college players worth mentioning: Evan Chambers, Keon Broxton, Brett Wallach, Randy Henry, Mycal Jones, and Darrell Ceciliani. Broxton and Jones are the best prospects of the bunch, though neither inspired me to write anything more about them now.

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]“

Mike Trout (and Kyle Seager)

The man in the title lucky enough to escape the parentheses who just so happened to get the call to the big leagues today also just so happens to be my biggest draft miss since I started this site back in 2009. Mike Trout was ranked 74th on my final 2009 MLB Draft big board, behind such luminaries as Todd Glaesmann and Miles Hamblin. Hey, at least I had him ranked ahead of Brooks Raley!

Besides the always super fun attempt at self-depreciation, the reason I bring up my low ranking of Trout is to see if there is something that I can learn from in all of this. My issues with Trout were pretty simple: I didn’t believe in the bat (looked really sluggish through the zone), I didn’t think his speed was on the same level as others (inexcusable considering I saw him play live and in color, but I had him timed as above-average at best), and, most embarrassing, I could never get past the popular at the time, but silly in hindsight Aaron Rowand comp that engulfed my brain. That last point could be an example of why player comps are dangerous and how they often do more harm than good; I’d agree to a certain extent, but feel obligated to stress once again that comps should be used as a starting point alone. True, when I was younger and stupider I often took comps too far; Mike Trout as an Aaron Rowand clone is Exhibit A. Now that I’m older and wiser I can appreciate the way all comps must be used in proper context: I know now to consider a) who is providing the comp and how serious they are about the similarities, b) whether is it a potential outcome, body, tool, or skill comp, and c) what are the major differences between the players being compared (call this fact-checking the veracity of the original comp). I remember telling a buddy that Trout reminded me of a speedier Jay Payton, for what it’s worth. Probably shouldn’t quit my day job anytime soon…

Besides falling behind such stars as Glaesmann and Hamblin, Trout was also behind another player recently recalled to the bigs, Seattle’s Kyle Seager. Seager was my 65th ranked player that year. I won’t argue that Seager will be a better ballplayer than Trout as a big leaguer, but I am just crazy enough to stand by my original pre-draft ranking of the two prospects. I already laid out my wrong-headed assessments of Trout during his high school days. Seager, on the other hand, was a personal favorite from day one. This was written in March of 2009:

Batting stance is reminiscent of Chase Utley’s, but comparing a player not likely to even go in the first round with a top ten big league position player isn’t fair to anybody; instead, Seager reminds me a little bit of a better version of former ASU shortstop and current Phillies prospect Jason Donald – Seager is the better hitter, but Donald had the defensive edge; Seager’s well-rounded game (great plate discipline, slightly above-average power, good baserunner, high contact rate) make him a personal favorite of mine and as good a bet as any college hitter to settle in to a long career as a league average (at least) big leaguer.

If we can ignore the fact that I was comparing every collegiate middle infielder to Jason Donald at the time (pretty sure Grant Green also got the Donald treatment at some point), we still can see that all of his offensive positives from his college days (great plate discipline, slightly above-average power, good baserunner, high contact rate) apply as a professional. I really like Seager, both as a player and a person, and I look forward to watching his career unfold.

As much as I like Seager, his third round draft status keeps him from the following list. These are the first/supplemental first round picks in 2009 that have already reached in the big leagues. My pre-draft ranking is in parentheses: RHP Stephen Strasburg (1st), 2B Dustin Ackley (2nd), RHP Mike Leake (4th), RHP Alex White (6th), RHP Aaron Crow (11th), LHP Mike Minor (18th), LHP Rex Brothers (33rd), LHP Andy Oliver (49th), RHP Drew Storen (51st). Pretty crazy, right? That’s nine out of forty-nine possible players already in the bigs just two short years later.

As a final aside, Washington was rumored by Baseball America to have strongly considered taking either Trout or Wil Myers with the tenth overall pick. Storen has done what has been expected of him so far, but, damn, it is easy to love a Werth-Trout-Harper outfield for the next half decade and beyond.

Alex White’s Debut

Cleveland’s Alex White made a pretty successful big league debut (6 IP 6 H 2 ER 4 BB 4 K – two of the walks were intentional) on Saturday against the Detroit Tigers. Per Fangraphs, he threw around 75% fastballs (both two-seamers and four-seamers), 6% splitters, and 18% sliders with the two fastballs the most successful of his four distinct offerings. In light of his solid debut, I thought a quick retrospective on White was in order. It can be a lot of fun to check in on draft prospects as they evolve into minor leaguers and eventually grow into big leaguers. It was a good idea…in theory. I say that because Alex White’s path the big leagues is a unique one. For White there hasn’t been a whole lot of evolving and growing, at least not on the surface. I don’t mean to downplay all of the work he has put in over the past few years, not do I want to make light of the personal growth and subsequent effect that has had on his professional prospects. I just think it is funny that not much has changed about White over the years from a scouting standpoint. This can be construed as either a positive (stuff has remained above-average across the board, plus he’s had no velocity loss) or a negative (no meaningful improvement in his stuff, with the exception of a slight improvement with his split), depending on how you world view. I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, so I think it is pretty cool that White has stayed true to himself. Sinkers, sliders, splitter. They helped get him drafted out of high school, they helped get him drafted in the first round out of college, and now they’ve helped him reach the big leagues after less than 200 innings pitched in the minors.

Big Board Standing

White started the 2009 draft cycle as the second overall ranked player on my board. His stock held more or less steady throughout the year, dropping only four spots to sixth overall. By June, White was behind only Stephen Strasburg, Dustin Ackley, Tyler Matzek, Mike Leake, and Tanner Scheppers on the board.

Mock Draft Prognostication  

White wound up going fifteenth overall to Cleveland despite the fact that in each of three 2009 mock drafts he was a top ten pick. I started with him going ninth overall to Detroit, then moved him up to fourth (Pittsburgh), and then finally settled on him winding up with Baltimore at the fifth spot. Three hacks at it, three empty swings.

Commentary (from 2/2009)

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 $1.4 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.

Commentary 2.0 (from 6/2009)

But I won’t knock the real Indians taking Alex White at 15. Sensational pick. White came into the year as the frontrunner to go number two overall to Seattle, so you know he’s naturally gifted. I buy the talk coming out of Carolina that suggested his struggles on the mound this year were due largely to nagging injuries. Get him healthy and watch him take off – White has the upside of a really good big league number two starting pitcher.

Quick Comparison – 2010 College Catchers vs 2009 College Catchers

Given the choice of a random sampling of college catching prospects from 2010 and 2009, what side of the ’10 vs ’09 debate will you fall on? It’s been said that 2010 is the better year for college catching, a sentiment I agree with for what it’s worth, but why not actually put conventional wisdom to the death with a head-to-head comparison? Originally I had planned to pick players 1-5-10-15-20-25 from each draft class (2010 based on my rankings, 2009 based on draft order) and compare, but the presence of Bryce Harper would make the entire exercise even more pointless than it probably already is. Instead, we’ll compare 2-7-12-17-22-27. Also, I may have miscounted with the 2009 draft class, but, really, the comparison is unscientific enough already, what’s the harm in mixing things up even further?

Full 2010 college catcher rankings tomorrow. Maybe an Alternate Reality Mock Draft, too. Real Mock Draft is almost done, should be ready to be published early next week. Additionally, comments and emails will be answered in the next 48 hours. Please, do try to contain your excitement. As for our college catching comparison, here’s the quick breakdown:

2010

Yasmani Grandal
Cody Stanley
Tommy Medica
Xorge Carrillo
Tyler Bullock
Jeremy Mayo

OR

2009

Josh Phegley
Tobias Streich
Carlos Ramirez
Tyson Van Winkle
Michael Thomas
Jeremy Gillan

Personally, I like Grandal better than Phegley, Stanley over Streich, and Ramirez more than Medica. 2 wins for 2010, 1 win for 2009. After that, things get pretty close to even with each matchup. Xorge Carrillo gets the edge over Van Winkle in the battle of hilariously named prospects, Bullock (offense!) wins by the slightest of margins over Thomas (defense!), and Mayo/Gillan is a true pick-em. 4 wins for 2010, 1 win for 2009, 1 too close to call. Admittedly not the most scientific way to determine a particular year’s draft strength, but it’s at least one more tiny data point for the pro-2010 crowd.

Mike Leake’s Debut

I hate being that guy who always quotes himself, but, well, allow me to quote myself:

Leake possesses a good fastball (sitting 88-92, peak 94), plus slider, above-average changeup, usable curve, plus command, plus control, plus athleticism, and, perhaps my personal favorite positive, intriguing potential with the bat. Can’t wait to see what he does with the Reds this season.

Ignore all that pitching stuff (6.2 IP 4 H 1 ER 7 BB 5 K with 106 pitches — 57 for strikes — and 6 GO to 6 AO) and focus on the bolded part only. There are embarrassingly few things on this mortal earth that I love more than pitchers capable of handling the bat. Reading this quote made me all kinds of happy:

“I was almost more excited to hit today than pitch,” Leake said.

Again, ignore that totally unimportant pitching part (6.2 IP 4 H 1 ER 7 BB 5 K with 106 pitches — 57 for strikes — and 6 GO to 6 AO) and focus on what really matters. At the plate, Mike Leake went 2-2 with a pair of singles. That’s good for a 1.000 batting average, people! I’ve read that Leake’s hat is heading to the Hall of Fame, but if it were up to me you’d better be sure it would be his batting helmet making its way to Cooperstown instead.

On a slightly more serious note, here’s the current plan outlining what is in store this week. All entries are subject to change, and, as always, requests are always encouraged.

Plan of Attack for Week of April 12, 2010

  • Who Will Be Drafted? Atlantic 10 Edition
  • Positional Rankings (position TBD…college lefties, maybe?)
  • Alternate Reality Mock Draft (expect this on Friday, the only day of the week I actually have planned out already)
  • Mystery Draft 2.0
  • More Data!
  • Responses to all comments that I missed this past week

Mike Leake = Big Leaguer

A look back through the archives at what has been written at this very site about the newest member of the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation. The evolution of former Arizona State prospect and current big leaguer Mike Leake as seen through the lens of a nobody amateur draft prognosticator…

February 20, 2009

Leake was ranked 11th on my first ever published list of draft-eligible college players. Not bad, right? Just ignore the fact that he was sandwiched between Indiana’s Josh Phegley (a player I still like, but clearly not a prospect on Leake’s level) and the pitching version of Long Island’s James Jones, a player eventually drafted by Seattle as a toolsy outfielder. My evaluation of him at the time included the following defense of the “controversial” at the time ranking of Leake over Baylor’s Kendal Volz:

Leake over Volz is a little strange, but it came down to present plus command and movement over potential power plus stuff across the board.

February 27, 2009

One week later I noted the way Leake outdueled fellow future first round pick Kyle Gibson. Leake’s numbers that day: 8 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 10 K (11 GO/2 AO). Also noted at the time was Leake’s stellar groundball numbers: 19 of his 23 batted ball outs at that point in the season came on the ground.

March 3, 2009

This is where things starting to get hot and heavy with the Leake lovefest. His ranking (6th on a list of 2009 draft-eligible righthanded college pitchers) may not seem all that impressive, but keep in mind that meant only Aaron Crow, Tanner Scheppers, Kyle Gibson, Alex White, and Stephen Strasburg were ahead of him. Not a bad list of pitchers to fall behind, all things considered. His quick scouting report at the time looked like this:

Leake literally has everything I look for in a pitching prospect. Let’s do it bullet point style:

  • Plus athleticism – has played first, second, short, and every outfield position as a Sun Devil
  • Ability to handle the bat – hit .340/.500/.574 in 47 at bats last season (12/9 walk to strikeout ratio)
  • Groundball inducing stuff – so far this season, 19 of his 23 non-K outs recorded have come on the ground
  • Plus secondary pitch – slider works better as another groundball inducing weapon, but it also creates plenty of swings and misses
  • Above-average third pitch – his changeup is nearly as good as his slider
  • Plus command – his ability to spot any of his three pitches has earned him universal praise from scouts
  • Plus control – roughly 1.75 BB/9 in his college career
  • Plus makeup/competitiveness – only good things have been said by scouts, coaches, teammates, and parents about Leake’s drive to succeed and strong work ethic

What Leake is missing is an ideal frame (he’s 6-0, 180), an overpowering fastball (sits 89-92), and a whole lot of room for growth. I’d argue the last point a bit because I think any two-way player stands to gain a little something once they begin to focus solely on one aspect of the game, but, on the whole, those negatives are fair criticisms of Leake’s game. Fortunately, a blazing hot fastball and a “prototypical pitcher’s frame” each fall very low on the list of things I care about. A high radar gun reading on a fastball is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but good fastball movement (something Leake has in spades) trumps good fastball speed every time. There is something to be said about a physical frame that needs filling out eventually producing a better fastball down the road, sure, but many college pitchers are what they are by their junior seasons anyway. The backlash against short righthanders is not grounded in empirical research, so I tend to actually look at short righthanded pitching as being a potentially undervalued asset in the draft every year. Yes, I just spun Leake’s lack of height as a positive. Your mileage might vary with that part of the assessment.

One industry comp and one personal comp for Leake before we wrap this thing up. First, my slightly off the wall comparison – highly-touted Japanese prospect Yu Darvish. Darvish has four inches on Leake and throws a knuckle-curve, but they have similar stuff (sinker, slider, change) otherwise. The better comparison may be the more common one – a lesser Tim Hudson, right down to the two-way talent shown at the college level. You could do worse than a poor man’s Tim Hudson come draft day.

My first prediction of where Leake would wind up drafted came at the end of the piece. Wasn’t quite on the money, but the guess worked pretty well for an early March estimate:

There will be sexier options on draft day for teams picking in the mid- to late first round, but there may not be as sure a bet to be a dependable major leaguer as Leake. I bet he is a target of teams with multiple high picks (Arizona) and mid-market franchises picking in the late teens/early twenties (St. Louis, Toronto, Houston).

March 10, 2009

When I updated the college big board with report card grades (a good idea for 2010 come to think of it), Leake received high praise:

11. Mike Leake – RHSP – Arizona State – One of the easiest grades to assign, Leake’s been phenomenal through three starts so far… A+

March 22, 2009

I can’t believe there is any doubt that Mike Leake has a first round caliber arm. His latest outing was excellent: 9 IP 5 H 1 ER 1 BB 15 K in a win over rival Arizona. His season numbers are pristine (48/7 strikeout to walk numbers in 40 innings of 1.35 ERA pitching) and his scouting reports have been positive all spring long.

April 2, 2009

Leake may be my favorite prospect in all the draft, but I’m not sure how much my opinion matters to teams drafting in the first round…yes, he’s a very good prospect and an almost sure-fire first rounder, but I don’t want my inflated opinion of him getting in the way of properly assessing his relative value.

May 8, 2009

Predicted Leake would go to Colorado with the 11th pick in the first round one month ahead of the draft

June 5, 2009

Stuck with Leake to Colorado with the 11th pick in last mock before the big day

June 9, 2009

Fourth on my last Big Board leading up to the draft! Fourth! My love of Leake as a prospect seemingly grew with every passing week. Nothing has changed from the glowing scouting report posted above. Leake possesses a good fastball (sitting 88-92, peak 94), plus slider, above-average changeup, usable curve, plus command, plus control, plus athleticism, and, perhaps my personal favorite positive, intriguing potential with the bat. Can’t wait to see what he does with the Reds this season.

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