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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.

Looking Forward to the Past

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

There Were Ten Tigers

Photo Credit: There Were Ten Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stacking up the ’09’s with the ’08’s

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

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

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

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

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

2009 MLB Draft: Top High School Righthanded Pitching Cheatsheet

To make organization around these parts a little bit easier, here is a list of 32 high school righthanded pitchers worth knowing so far. Players already covered appear both in bold and in parentheses. Each player’s info is displayed using the following basic format:

Name, height, weight, fastball velocity, other pitches — slider, curveball, changeup, etc., miscelleaneous information

The list of players to watch will surely grow between now and June, but this ought to serve as a decent resource for the time being.

  1. (Mark Appel, 6-4, 185, FB: peak 92, SL, CU)
  2. Jake Barrett, 6-3, 225, FB: peak 91, sits upper-80s, CB, CU, good young power hitter
  3. Justin Bellez, 6-1, 180, FB: peak 92, SL: 10/4, CU, repeatable easy mechanics
  4. Bryan Berglund, 6-3, 175, FB: 89-91, SL: [+] 81-86, CU
  5. (Ethan Carter, 6-5, 205, FB: peak 90-91, SL: mid-70s, CU: low-80s, cut fastball)
  6. (Brody Colvin, 6-4, 190, FB: 90-93, CB: 10/4, CU)
  7. (Jordan Cooper, 6-1, 195, FB: peak 91, CB/SL: [+] potential, injury history)
  8. Michael Dedrick, 6-3, 185, FB: low-90s, CB: [+]
  9. Dylan Floro, 6-1, 175, FB: peak 92, CB, SL, CU, four average or above pitch guy
  10. (Mychal Givens, 6-1, 185, FB: peak 96-98, SL, CU, excellent sinker)
  11. Garrett Gould, 6-4, 195, FB: 88-91, CB: 12/6, 81, spike, CU: 78-80, above average command and pitchability
  12. (Matt Graham, 6-3, 195, FB: peak 94, CB)
  13. (Scott Griggs, 6-2, 185, FB: sits low-90s, peak 95, plus command and makeup)
  14. Brooks Hall, 6-5, 200, FB: 90-92, SL, CU, sound delivery
  15. (Michael Heller, 6-2, 180, FB: sits 90-93, peak 95, CB, CU: 75)
  16. Matt Hobgood, 6-4, 240, FB: sits 91-93, peak 95, good hitter
  17. (Chris Jenkins, 6-7, 235, FB: sits 91-93, peak 94, SL: [+] potential, command issues, high effort delivery)
  18. Matt Koch, 6-3, 185, FB: 88-91, SL, CB, CU, raw mechanics
  19. (Shelby Miller, 6-3, 195, FB: sits 91-93, peak 94, CB: mid-70s, CU: 80, SL, holds velocity late, exceptional balance, heavy fastball)
  20. James Needy, 6-6, 195, FB: low-90s, CB, SL, CU
  21. Keifer Nuncio, 6-2, 195, FB: peak 91, CB, CU
  22. (Brooks Pounders, 6-5, 220, FB: peak 94, CB: [+] potential, plus hitter)
  23. David Renfroe, 6-3, 180, FB: 88-92, CB: 12/6, clean and easy mechanics, plus athlete
  24. Felix Roque, 6-5, 200, FB: 88-91, SL: [+], CU, heavy sinker
  25. (Keyvius Sampson, 6-1, 185,FB: low-90s, peak 95, CB: low-80s, CU: potential [+], clean delivery, plus athlete)
  26. Trent Stevenson, 6-6, 165, FB: 86-90, SL: 73-78,
  27. Chad Thompson, 6-8, 215, FB: sits 90-93, peak 94, CB, CU, SF: potential [+]
  28. (Jacob Turner, 6-4, 205, FB: peak 93/94, CB: [+] pitch in mid-70s, CU: circle change, clean mechanics, good command)
  29. (Daniel Tuttle, 6-2, 185, FB: sits 90-93, peak 94, SL: 10/4 [+] pitch, sinker)
  30. (Zack Wheeler, 6-4, 180, FB: peak 95, SL: potential [+], low-80s, CB, splitter)
  31. Zack Von Rosenberg, 6-5, 200, FB: 88-91, CB: mid-70s, CU: high-70s, good mechanics
  32. Madison Younginer, 6-3, 185, FB: low-90s, peak 94, CU: sinking action, CB

2009 MLB Draft: Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (Number 1)

Finally, the top high school righthanded pitcher in the 2009 draft class. Because we’ve already spoiled the surprise in the title, let’s get right down to it. Before we do that, here’s the rest of the list:

Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (15 thru 11)
Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (10 thru 6)
Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (5 thru 2)

1. Shelby Miller – Brownwood HS (Texas)

Miller has established himself as the premier high school righthanded pitcher of the 2009 draft class. While Miller is an outstanding prospect who carries a no doubt about it first round grade, the distinction as best high school righthanded pitcher doesn’t carry quite the same weight this year as it may have carried in years past. Unlike the gargantuan distance between the top two high school lefthanders and the rest of the prep lefty field, there is very little that separates the “elite” group of high school righties from the rest of the group. I wonder if that’s a byproduct of the very nature of what makes up a “high school righthanded pitching prospect.” Or maybe this particular class of high school righthanders just so happens to have a whole bunch of similarly talented players. I don’t know. What I do know is that the 2009 high school righthanders are a talented bunch headed up by a pretty exciting young player in Shelby Miller. Miller is just one of five high school righthanders that currently carry near-consensus first round grades, a list that also includes Jacob Turner, Mychal Givens, Zack Wheeler, and Scott Griggs. Miller is also one of a whopping seven pitchers that I personally consider first round caliber talents out of this group – the five aforementioned arms, plus Keyvius Sampson and Brooks Pounders, should be first rounders come June when it all comes together for them this spring.

No picture before the jump, but instead words of empirically juiced up wisdom from a man much smarter than I. The three groups referred to here are high school pitchers, college pitchers, and college hitters, by the way. Read, ponder, and then kindly check out more on the top prep righty after the jump…

Draft Rule #8: There is virtually no difference whatsoever in the value of the other three groups of draft picks. In particular, it is no longer apparent that high school pitchers, even in the first round, are significantly riskier than either high school hitters or college pitchers.

From 1992 to 1999, pitchers out of college returned 14.6% less value than expected. Pitchers drafted out of high school were at -14.9%. High school hitters checked in at -20.9%.

(more…)

2009 MLB Draft: Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (10-6)

Today we continue with our look at the top 15 draft-eligible high school righthanded pitchers in the country. Yesterday, we met Jordan Cooper, Ethan Carter, Chris Jenkins, Brody Colvin, and Michael Heller. In case you missed it and can’t be bothered to look down the page, here’s what we’ve done so far:

Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (15 thru 11)
Mock Draft 1.0
(or everybody’s favorite feature)
A Method to the Madness
(or what we are all about)

We haven’t done a whole lot just yet, so there’s still time to catch up. Do it! Do it now! I’ll wait…

Anyway, players 10 thru 6 are next up. For a hint at one of the names on the list, check out the video below. Now I know what you’re thinking – I’m good like that. You’re thinking, come on man, this is nothing more than a transparent attempt to try out embedding a video for the first time. Well, congratulations – you’ve got me all figured out. But, honestly, it’s a good video and it does reveal the top name on today’s part of the list…and I know you are just dying to know who it is.

A new batch of names, including the young man featured in the video above, after the jump… (more…)

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