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2011 Quick Draft Thoughts – Duke Blue Devils

1. The more college profiles I do, the less I realize I have to say about the actual college team being profiled. Duke will be competitive, I’m sure, but they won’t be close to a top division club in the perennially strong ACC. That’s about all I can really tell you about how the Blue Devils will do this year and even that “prediction” (if we can call my patented “maybe they’ll be good, maybe they’ll be beat…who knows?” line a prediction) is one made with limited confidence. What I can tell you, I hope, is that Duke has four players who look like better than average bets to get drafted this June. That has to be good for something, right?

The two best of the four are JR LHP Eric Pfisterer and JR OF Will Piwnica-Worms. Every year there are a number of pitchability lefthanders with three solid pitches and good command who get lost in the mid-round shuffle. Pfisterer, a big recruit two years ago who has lived up to the billing so far, could be part of that mix this year. Steven Proscia’s former high school teammate throws a high-80s/low-90s fastball (peaking at 92 MPH), good changeup, and decent low-70s curveball. Not sure if it is fair to call Piwnica-Worms a sleeper or not, but his combination of solid all around tools and quietly productive 2010 season (.323/.402/.530 – 21 BB/24 K – 217 AB) make him a potential top ten round player in my eyes. I once thought of players like Piwnica-Worms (tweeners who might not hit enough for a corner, but don’t quite have the glove for everyday play in center) as ideal fourth outfielder candidates, but the renewed vigor teams are emphasizing defensive skills makes me wonder. If Piwnica-Worms can play plus defense in a corner — and I’m not saying I know he can or can’t, I don’t know either way — then isn’t it possible a team might consider it worthwhile to play him out there every day?

2. The second quick thought almost always winds up being about a non-2011 draft prospect. Might as well continue the trend. It pains me to make the comparison because a) it’s been done before and b) it’s too easy from a race/build standpoint, but the idea of current Duke RHP/SS Marcus Stroman (2012) playing the role of late career Tom Gordon going forward makes a heck of a lot of sense any way you look at it. The Stroman/Gordon comparison has been bandied about since the former’s prep days, so I took it upon myself to find somebody willing to give me a different comp. I wanted something different not for the  sake of being different for difference’s sake — I love conformity far too much to ever go that route — but because at some point down the line I just got plain bored of hearing the same comp over and over again. Finally, after bothering way too many people, I heard a comp that makes some sense: current Astros reliever Brandon Lyon. Lyon’s a little bit bigger with a bit more mustard on his breaking ball, but it’s a decent starting point, especially for somebody who hasn’t seen Stroman throw.

I’d love to see Stroman continue to progress this year and next, especially as he tries to polish up a third pitch. If he can do that, then he can go into pro ball with the upside of early career Tom Gordon, i.e. a potential above-average professional starting pitcher. I should make clear I haven’t heard any updates on Stroman since last spring. He could be throwing a dynamite changeup, cutter, splitter, or slow curve for all I know, but, as of this moment, all I know is that he’s predominantly a two-pitch guy. I also love him as a middle infield prospect, by the way.

3. Of the teams profiled so far (Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech), I’d rank the current crop of draftable lefthanded pitchers, in order, as Jed Bradley (GT), Austin Stadler (WF), Eric Pfisterer, and Mark Adzick (WF). I’d rank the outfielders, in order, Steven Brooks (WF), Will Piwnica-Worms, and Brian Litwin. My goal is to keep a running list of certain positions of interest, so consider this last thought more for my own edification than anything else. Kind of a ripoff, come to think of it. I’ll make it up in the big finish…

Early 2011 Draft Guesses

The aforementioned Eric Pfisterer and Will Piwnica-Worms should be on many a draft board this spring. I worry each player could get pegged as “great college performer, limited pro upside” types, but big junior years from a scouting perspective (an extra mile or two on Pfisterer’s fastball, some time shaved of  the 60 for Piwnica-Worms, for example) could change it. The other two Duke prospects with a chance to get popped are JR RHP Ben Grisz and JR OF Brian Litwin. Grisz offers a similar repertoire to Pfisterer, but delivers his upper-80s fastball and good lower-80s slider from the right side. I like what I was recently told about Litwin, a player who is, and I’m quoting but really paraphrasing, “strong enough to hit for big power numbers without selling out like a typical slugger, but insistent on taking big hacks every time up all the same.” Litwin’s tools are as good or better than Piwnica-Worms’s across the board, with the great big exception being his hit tool. From a skills standpoint, he also currently falls way behind his buddy in the outfield in the plate discipline department. Few doubt Litwin’s ability, but a below-average present hit tool and a really poor approach to hitting both need to turn around quickly in 2011. As it stands, I think they go off the board in that order: Pfisterer, Piwnica-Worms, Grisz, and Litwin, but you can really flip a coin between the first two. Also can’t completely rule out the potential emergence of JR RHP David Putnam (three decent or better pitches, including a good upper-70s CB) and underrated two-way player SR RHP/INF Dennis O’Grady, a really interesting senior sign possibility who has consistently gotten results at the college level.

 

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