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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.

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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.

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.

2009 MLB Draft Grades – Philadelphia Phillies

I don’t have a plan of attack in how I want to approach draft grades, so I just made up some categories and started writing. If anybody out there has a better idea on how to do this, I’m all ears. For now, my quick look at what each big league team did in the 2009 MLB Draft…

Three (3) Picks I Liked A Lot

Am I a byproduct of a the instant-gratification, “what have you done for me lately” generation? Do I place too high a value on a singular event that doesn’t have quite the real life importance explaining the way a team operates the way it does that I’ve assigned to it? Or am I just a typical Negadelphian who is only ever happy when there is something, real or imagined, to complain about? Yes, yes, and yes. I’m not happy that the Phillies, just one year removed from providing me with some of the very best moments of my young life, have now put themselves in the position where their 2009 draft class, a draft class that serves as a proxy to their true commitment to putting a winning product on the field, will be considered a success or failure based almost entirely on the whims of a 7th round high school righthanded pitcher from Louisiana. Brody Colvin (7th Round – HS RHP) is easily the most talented player taken by the Phillies in 2009, but whether or not he signs is a 50/50 proposition at best. No matter what happens, it’s hard not to like the pick itself, especially when looked at from an actual cost/potential benefit perspective. I’m finally buying into the Kelly Dugan (2nd Round – HS OF) selection, even though I’m not sure what to make of his ultimate upside. His is a weird skillset to wrap the head around as it isn’t every day a high school first baseman is converted instantly to centerfield as a professional. Lance Berkman is the pie in the sky optimist comp being bandied about, but even 80% of Berkman would work just fine over the long haul. Jonathan Singleton (8th Round – HS 1B) should be what Michael Durant could have been.

Three (3) Picks I Didn’t Like At All

Kyrell Hudson (3rd Round – HS OF) may in fact be a worthy high upside gamble in the third round (he looks great in a uniform, I’m told), but high school players with well below-average hit tools just plain don’t excite me personally. This seems like a research project worth looking into, though it may be difficult to objectively pin down the parameters to make it worthwhile. The Adam Buschini (4th Round – COL 2B) pick is a frustrating one because it brings back terrible memories of an inexplicably cheap Phillies ownership group overdrafting signable no-leverage college players for no clear reason.

Three (3) Best Bets to Play Major League Ball

Kelly Dugan and Brody Colvin are the two easiest names because each player has the upside needed to be above-average at their position while also coming ready made with useful enough tools that should play within the confines of a carefully carved out big league role if things don’t all come together and stardom isn’t achieved. The wild card of this group is Washington State LHP Matt Way, a fifth round pick. Brian Gump (26th Round – COL OF) could be a fifth outfielder somewhere, someday based on his plus speed tool alone, but now I’m just getting cute with this category. Part of my appreciation of Gump here is my coy way of mentioning that two of his many nicknames include “Hot Pants” and “Shiggles.” Shiggles Gump. For real.

California Condor Award (Longest Incubation Period aka Longest Expected Time in Minors)

Plenty of one promotion at a time high school guys in this particular class – lots of 2014 ETA’s. Hudson is probably the biggest name among the group that would take the longest time to reach the bigs…if that makes sense.

Highest Upside

Hudson is almost all projection at this point, so he would appear to be a favorite for this category. On paper, it does make some sense – Hudson is Eddie Murphy raw with tons of potential growth to his game. Then again, your mileage might vary on how high his actual upside really is. It’s great that he can run really fast and even better that his physical frame belies potential plus power down the road, but if a player can’t hit high school pitching with any kind of regularity then his upside is ultimately going to be quite limited. It’s too early to say Hudson — or any high school player for that matter — will never hit as a professional, so I won’t come out and say it, but…it’s generally not too wise to invest too much hope in players who haven’t shown the ability to make consistent contact against what should be overmatched competition. My real answer would be Colvin, a pitcher with true top of the rotation quality stuff and the drive to get there.

Tina Small Biggest Potential Bust Award (Google Her, It’ll Make Sense – NSFW)

Has to be Hudson at this point, right? He could conceivably never make it past AA. If you are counting on underslot top five round college signees to become above-average big league contributors, then you could also throw either Buschini or Way in the mix. I personally would be surprised to see Buschini get a big league at bat. That would make his selection a “bust,” right? I guess it depends on how we want to define “bust.” For now, I’m just looking at high round players (top five, generally) that have a long ways away from being big league quality players. Hudson fits that definition almost too perfectly.

Highest Floor

Way could be a back of the rotation crafty lefty starter if things break the way he and the Phillies hope, but his most likely landing spot is as a LOOGY. Austin Hyatt (15th Round – COL RHP) is another player that may not quite have the upside as a legit big league starter, but has just enough stuff and more than enough guile to outwork those around him and win a bullpen job someday.

Three (3) Unsignable (Probably) Players To Remember

I’m too much of an optimist to put Colvin here, so I won’t. I’d actually bet on him signing a pro contract in the next month or so over him heading down to LSU. If the category was really best non-top five round high school player, then Colvin, Singleton, and Andrew Susac (16th Round – HS C) would make for an easy top three. If we restrict the category to players picked in rounds 10 or later, the best bets to emerge as legit prospects in 2012 include Jake Stewart (Round 14 – HS OF), Susac, and Jeff Gelalich (Round 41 – HS OF).

Final Grade

As it stands now, this draft is one of the weaker ones from top to bottom. However, like many drafts around the league at this point, that potentially negative grade comes with plenty of caveats. Attempting to grade the Phillies prep bunch is tricky because it raises the question of talent vs. signability. Do you grade the high school players on talent or on the likelihood of whether or not each player signs? If it’s the former we’re ignoring the realities of the draft, but if it’s the latter then we’ve just wasted time analyzing picks that shouldn’t really be discussed until after the August signing deadline. I guess a balance is the way to go, let’s try that approach and see what sticks.

Dugan could be an above-average regular outfielder, but was still an undeniable overdraft and not great relative value. Hudson is an all or nothing pick, no other way of putting it. Singleton could be the high schooler than makes or breaks this particular subset (high school bats) because his power potential, bat speed, and age all point to big things to come. Aaron Altherr (Round 9 – HS OF) is Kyrell Hudson with better makeup, thus making him an excellent gamble at this point in the draft. An incredibly raw high school outfielder with a questionable hit tool in the third? Bad idea. Similar player in the ninth round? Let’s roll the dice and see if we can get lucky. Speaking of toolsy outfielders, Stewart and Gelalich both qualify as worthy shots in the dark past round ten. Stewart could part of the insurance policy the Phillies took out in case Colvin doesn’t sign. Susac and the already signed Marlon Mitchell (Round 27 – HS C) are both quality defensive catchers that could develop into starting caliber players.

Colvin is naturally the star of the prep pitching group. His basic scouting report (mid-90s fastball, near plus curveball, above-average athlete and hitter, sometimes sloppy mechanics) sounds a lot like former Phillies first round pick Kyle Drabek’s coming out of high school to me. Steven Inch (Round 6 – HS RHP) has a great frame and that fantastic blend of untapped potential mixed with present polish that make him a personal favorite. Colin Kleven (Round 33 – HS RHP), like Inch a Canadian, grades out as having a tad less upside and a great deal less polish, but he could be a possibility as an early August sign simply because he is one of the very few projectable arms drafted by the Phils here in 2009.

One or more out of Way, Nick Hernandez (12 Round – COL LHP), Hyatt, or still unsigned AJ Griffin (34th Round – COL RHP) should reach the bigs in some capacity – I’m personally a huge Griffin fan, though the lack of a signature on a pro contract by now seems to indicate the ship has all but sailed on him signing and he’ll head back to San Diego for his senior year. The quartet make up four of my favorite under the radar college arms from this year’s class, so at least they have that going for them. There are almost literally no college bats that profile as Major Leaguers, with the only exceptions being longshots like Buschini (who I’m on record as not liking), Darin Ruf (20th Round – COL 1B), and unsigned Texas A&M Aggie Brodie Greene (37th Round – COL 2B). I’m doubtful that any of the three get more than a handful of big league at bats, but Ruf was still a solid selection as a late round senior sign and Greene was a worthy gamble (though it is doubtful he signs) as an offensive second baseman in the 37th round.

Overall, it’s a draft heavy on high school bats and college arms. Based on what I know and what I think I know, they’ll sign two of the four toolsy outfielders (Hudson and Altherr), none or both of the prep righties (I think both Colvin and Inch sign), and then one of the two remaining potential impact bats (either Singleton or Susac, with Singleton being the more likely of the two). A haul of Colvin, Dugan, Singleton, Inch, (Susac), (Stewart), (Gelalich), Hudson, Altherr, Hernandez, Mitchell, Way, Ruf, Buschini, and Hyatt wouldn’t match the potentially historic 2008 draft class for overall value, but it still stacks up as an above-average group with plenty of impact upside.

C+

Signings Update and College World Series Championship Live Blog

How are things? Just swell, I trust. Alright, enough about you. Let’s talk about me. Here’s what I’ve been up to when not traveling too far to go to rained out rookie league games…

First, I updated the signings page. I did it quickly — really, can you blame me? It’s important info, no doubt, but boring to write/talk about, I think — so feel free to jump in and offer any corrections or changes you see fit. I’m making up the slot/above slot/under slot distinctions as I go because, quite truthfully, I’m not really sure how I stand on the issue of MLB’s suggestion that bonuses be reduced by 10% across the board. I mean, it wasn’t a formal request, right? I know for a fact that some teams just laughed it off, so can we really claim that it’s the new standard for this year’s “slot” bonuses?

I can’t decide on what standard I should follow, and, like I alluded to earlier, I find the whole slot/above slot/under slot aspect of the draft to be the most tiring draft quirk to follow. What I’m trying to say is, I won’t lose too much sleep if I’m off on some of my big bold colored claims I’ve been making. If a correction needs to be made, call me out on it and I’ll happily oblige.

I’ve also spent time contemplating on which of the immediate post-2009 draft projects (team grades, round-by-round discussion, or a 2010 mock) I want to get to first. Decisions, decisions.

Lastly, I made the executive decision to sit on the couch and watch baseball tonight. There’s a pretty important college game going on, so I’m going to use the occasion as an excuse to watch entertaining baseball under the guise of doing the “work” of updating this too long dormant site of mine (I hate going a day without something up here, let alone almost a week). Check back later tonight for live updates and draft-related commentary about Game 1 of the College World Series.

MLB Draft 2009 – A Closer Look at Round 41

Now that the 2009 MLB Draft has come and gone (and, alas, so has the crazy traffic of early June), it’s time to get down to business in breaking down the best and the brightest from the ’09 draft class. After much thought, I’ve decided that the best way to get me back engaged with the 2009 MLB Draft was to randomly pull out a couple of rounds here and there in an effort to take a closer look at some of the most interesting prospects. I’m not sure how extensive this feature will be (there are still team by team report cards to do, as well as that 2010 mock draft and a slew of other summer-time goodies), so consider this more of a free-flowing sampling of what I’m hoping to accomplish rather than a rigid model. In the future we may want to look at multiple late rounds in a group because, well, if we keep up the hearty pace of profiling one round every weekday then this thing will drag on until the end of summer…and we’re far too busy with other exciting content for that, right?

3 Names to Remember or: Have Fun at School, See Ya in 2012

41.122 – Washington Nationals selection OF Dane Opel (Edwardsville HS, Illinois) – plenty to like about Opel including his potential plus defense in the outfield and a definite plus throwing arm; bat tool is still a little underdeveloped, but he’s got time to put it all together at a good school like Missouri; Opel has shot up in both height and weight since breaking onto the scene as a sophomore at Edwardsville, so it’ll be interesting to see if he keeps packing on the muscle if/when he grows another few inches while at school; Missouri commit

41.1234 – Texas Rangers selection LHP Forrest Garrett (Norcross HS, Georgia) – Garrett is a gigantic sleeper who has definite early round potential in 2012; his projectable frame should allow him to bump his already above-average fastball a few notches (sitting high-80s to low-90s), but his real money maker will be a potential plus changeup; throw in a curve with above-average potential and you’ve got yourself a three-pitch lefty with present solid command and a very bright future ahead; LSU commit

41.1247 – Philadelphia Phillies selection OF Jeff Gelalich (Bonita HS, California) – the tools-laden outfielder brings  a solid all-around mix to the field including a sweet lefthanded stroke, good speed, and a strong, accurate outfield arm; UCLA commit

Closest to the Major Leagues

41.1225 Pittsburgh Pirates selection UTIL Tyler Cannon (Virginia) reminds me of a better version of Missouri’s Greg Folgia, a player picked a round higher by the Indians. Cannon is solid in all phases of the game, but lacks fluidity on defense at any position. Between his lack of a defensive home and his steady, but unspectacular bat, Cannon has many believing his professional role will be that of a super-sub capable of playing literally every position on the diamond, including catcher. His college counting stats (through his first two seasons) match up with Eric Bruntlett’s in almost an eerie way, but, as you can see, the comparison falls apart when you see what each player’s rate stats look like:

Tyler Cannon College .265 .337 .350 687 121 452 83 120 24 4 2 64 22 7 43 91 0.02 0.20 0.69 0.53 0.18
Eric Bruntlett College .330 .438 .441 879 130 449 112 148 34 2 4 72 22 7 75 65 0.03 0.26 0.86 0.55 0.17

Anyway, I’d say that the Bruntlett comp may actually be a tad optimistic at this point. Cannon’s collegiate track record isn’t quite as strong as Bruntlett’s and he lacks Bruntlett’s tremendous Civil War reenactor style beard, but I’d bet on enough marginal improvements as he progresses into his mid-20s to see him getting a chance as a AAAA utility guy good enough to position himself as a potential callup when injuries to the more talented players occur.

41.1223 – Seattle Mariners selection RHP Kyle Witten (Cal State Fullerton) could benefit from scrapping a few of his iffy secondary offerings and re-inventing himself as a professional in the mould of agroundballing reliever who throws sinkers, sliders, and splitters. Velocity isn’t a problem for the big righty (he has touched 94 with frequency), but his performance this year for an excellent Fullerton team didn’t exactly light the world on fire. The raw power stuff is undeniable, but harnessing it has been an issue. This year marks the third time Witten has been drafted; could he return to school one more season with the hopes that a big senior year makes his fourth go-around with the draft a charm?

41.1227 – San Francisco Giants selection RHP Gary Moran (Sonoma State) has dominant enough numbers to warrant at least a mention here in the 41st round. Also worth a mention, Moran is a giant. Check out the line that the 6-8, 265 pound righthanded pitcher put up this year for the season:

Player                 ERA   W-L   APP  GS  CG SHO/CBO SV    IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO  2B  3B  HR   AB B/Avg   WP HBP  BK  SFA SHA
38 MORAN, Gary......  1.37   7-2    13  13   0   0/2    0  78.2  57  16  12  10  71   8   2   0  281  .203    4   8   0    3   7

Moran won’t blow you away with radar gun readings, but he throws a heavy fastball that bores in on righthanders to get plenty of groundball outs. He also has an above-average curve and, as supported by his numbers, sparkling control. Moran isn’t the usual late round college flier (he’s been drafted twice before), so don’t be shocked to see late round success story Gary Moran pitching out of a big league bullpen near you someday.

Highest Upside

Garrett is a personal favorite of mine (something about those plus changeups just gets to me), but an argument could easily be made for Opel, a guy who should see plenty of at bats right from the start at Missouri.

Potpourri

41.1226 – RHP Mason Magleby (picked by Baltimore out of Del Oro HS, California) has already come out and said that he is heading to the University of Nevada to play football. Baltimore’s loss is the Wolfpack’s gain, I guess.

41.1244 – 1B Travis Ozga (picked by the New York Mets out of Florida Atlantic) has easily the best last name in all the draft. As far as I know, we aren’t related…unless Travis goes on to light it up as a professional, of course. In that case, my long lost brother better look me up…