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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.

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