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.