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Roger Goodell rules the NFL with an iron fist, does he not? After finally tiring of wielding his unprecedented power of America’s Game, the commissioner now has set his sights on making big changes to America’s Pastime. First change? Unifying the draft order between the two sports. That’s right. This year’s MLB Draft order will be taken directly from the recently completed 2010 NFL Draft. As soon as the Rams went on the clock last night, so did the Cardinals. When the Lions celebrated taking the draft’s best player with the second overall pick, scouts for the Tigers were pouring over scouting reports of players they never believed they’d have a chance to get under the previous draft rules. Get the idea? Good. Prepare for more inanity with yet another Friday edition of an Alternate Reality Mock Draft!
1.1 St. Louis Rams/Cardinals: C Bryce Harper – Southern Nevada
As one of the few who believes Jimmy Clausen will be a better pro QB than Sam Bradford, allow me to express my hypocritical bewilderment that anybody in his/her right mind could think of a realistic scenario where Bryce Harper does not go first overall in the 2010 MLB Draft. The very thought of Harper not going first overall is pure lunacy, but, as mentioned, I realize that such a statement is at least a tad hypocritical coming from somebody who prefers a second round quarterback to the consensus number one pick in the draft. I’ve been told by certain fellow NFL Draft nuts that Bradford is leap years ahead of Clausen as a prospect; these certain people are ridiculously devoted to following college football and the NFL Draft, and, for whatever it’s worth, have dozens more meaningful contacts within the NFL than I do within MLB. They tell me that all, or at the very least nearly all, 32 teams have Bradford above Clausen on their boards. They tell me that certain teams viewed Bradford as the best QB prospect since Eli Manning. You’d think I’d be smart and defer to their expertise, but…no. I’m stupid. I admit it, but, based on what I’ve seen and read, I just like Clausen more. The doubts about his game are less significant to me than the ones surrounding Bradford. I get that some people may feel the same way about the gigantic risks associated with taking a prospect likely to demand more money than any silly junior college catcher should ever ask for. That’s fine. I’m being stupid about Clausen, so they can be stupid about Harper. Who am I to judge?
1.2 Detroit Lions/Tigers: RHP Jameson Taillon – The Woodlands HS (Texas)
Fireballing righthanded pitcher goes to Detroit with an early round selection. Feels vaguely familiar, doesn’t it? Taillon going second overall isn’t quite the slam dunk that picking Ndamukong Suh was, but it’s pretty close. Verlander-Porcello-Scherzer-Turner-Taillon. Scary.
1.3 Tampa (Bay) Buccaneers/Rays: RHP AJ Cole – Oviedo HS (Florida)
Stubbornly sticking with Cole as the second prep pitcher off the board, but slowly beginning to soften my once Gerald McCoy-esque strong position on the subject. Am I forcing these NFL Draft analogies a little bit? Anyway, as for the Tampa connection to the pick, well, I’d be lying if I had any actual idea what direction they’d go with their pick of any non-Harper/non-Taillon player on the board available. The Rays have very few easily discernible draft patterns, with perhaps the one exception being an emphasis on long-term upside stemming from faith in their magic touch with in-house player development. Cole or Karsten Whitson certainly fit the bill on the upside tip, and I was tempted to give them a bat like Manny Machado or Nick Castellanos. Ultimately, Baby Verlander is the pick.
1.4 Washington Redskins/Nationals: LHP Drew Pomeranz – Mississippi
Stephen Strasburg is joined by the potentially quick moving Pomeranz as a lethal 1-2 combination atop the Nationals rotation. If the presence of two ace caliber pitchers can’t get the fans out to the ballpark in Washington, nothing short of actually moving the Redskins back to the District will.
1.5 Kansas City Chiefs/Royals: RHP Karsten Whitson – Chipley HS (Florida)
Back in December I wrote this about Whitson: “Whitson, currently ranked fourth in this little subgroup, has a potential dynamite 1-2 punch with his fastball (sitting 91-93, hitting 95-96) and slider (works best in the mid-80s, but has shown up as a less effective slurvy high-70s CB at times), but I think his mechanics will need something pretty close to a complete overhaul as a professional.”
Sounds like the slider has tightened up a great deal this spring and his changeup is much improved. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – that’s very, very good news for his prospect stock. Next stop, consensus top ten pick!
1.6 Seattle Seahawks/Mariners: 3B Zack Cox – Arkansas
Wanted to give Jack Z an elite projectable high school arm or a plus defender at a premium defensive position, but, alas, no such player exists at this point in the draft. Cox, far and away the best college position player in 2010, is a swell consolation prize and, as an added bonus, gives the Seattle system someone with much needed power upside.
1.7 Cleveland Browns/Indians: RHP Deck McGuire – Georgia Tech
Both Cleveland and Kansas City stinking in both baseball and football really make this mock easy for me. I really like McGuire to Cleveland in a real mock, so it only makes sense to stick with him here.
1.8 Oakland Raiders/Athletics: RHP Anthony Ranaudo – Louisiana State
Buffalo and Jacksonville, owners of the next two picks in the NFL Draft’s first round, will both have to enjoy CJ Spiller and Tyson Alaualu instead of partaking in my fake NFL/MLB mock amalgalmation here. Injured college starting pitchers are the new Moneyball! I may not like a healthy Ranaudo as much as many seem to, but even I can’t quibble with a pro team scouting him and scouting him and scouting him until they are happy enough to slap a top ten grade on him. I’m opinionated, no doubt, but I also know my limitations; Ranaudo may not be my guy, but I can at least appreciate why some team is likely to grade him out as a top ten prospect.
1.9 Denver Broncos/Colorado Rockies: OF Austin Wilson – Harvard-Westlake HS (California)
Broncos? NFL? Draft? That can only mean one thing! TebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebowTebow…
1.10 Miami Dolphins/Florida Marlins: SS Manny Machado – Brito HS (Florida)
Not really sure how well Machado would fit in Parcells’ 3-4, but he could potentially serve as a long-term successor to Hanley Ramirez in case the Marlins MVP ever has to move off the position. Also, he’s a local product and, let’s face it, lazy writers love plugging in local players to their nearest pro team when they have no other idea how to finish a mock…
Guessing the 32 names expected to go in the first round two and a half months in advance probably isn’t an activity that makes a whole lot of sense, but, hey, why start making sense now?
Last year I threw out 30 names that I thought would be first rounders in 2009. Remember that? Good times. I hit on a whopping 17 of them. I’m not sure what the success rate should be, but I get the feeling that 17 of 30 isn’t particularly good. The players I had in the first round who weren’t first rounders in the end included Tyler Skaggs, Tanner Scheppers, Luke Bailey, Austin Maddox, Rich Poythress, James Paxton, DJ LeMahieu, Kentrail Davis, Trent Stevenson, Alex Wilson, Ryan Berry, Andy Oliver, and Jason Stoffel. The majority of those misses make me feel like a real dope in hindsight.
Poythress, LeMahieu, and Davis were all non-elite college bats that I pushed up the draft board in large part to being near the best of a weak college crop of hitters. Lesson #1: Teams will let the draft board come to them early on rather than reach for the better players at the draft’s weakest positions. Stevenson (hopped on his bandwagon after reading a lot of positive early season buzz), Wilson (another early season helium guy and the reason I was too scared to put Barret Loux on the list), Berry (really liked his glasses), Oliver (didn’t really like him, but succumbed to peer pressure), and Stoffel (figured big league teams would reach on a reliever in the late first) were all part of my pitching misses.
Skaggs, Scheppers, Bailey, Maddox, and Paxton aren’t misses I’m too stressed out about for a variety of reasons, mostly because I think they are all darn good prospects that are better than some of the players taken in the first round. Yes, I think quite highly of myself, why do you ask? Skaggs’s prospect stock was hurt by a better than usual lefthanded pitching crop, Scheppers and Bailey both had major injury concerns, Maddox fell at least partly because of signability concerns, and Paxton’s stock shot up late in the draft season, but never made it quite high enough to get into the first.
Enough about 2009, let’s see if we can do better here in 2010. First up, the best of the best. I’d call them locks if I had more of a backbone, but will instead hide behind the quotes. “Locks” it is.
2010 MLB Draft First Round “Locks”
C – Bryce Harper
SS – Christian Colon, Manny Machado, Yordy Cabrera
3B – Zack Cox, Nick Castellanos
OF – Bryce Brentz, Austin Wilson
RHP – Deck McGuire, Jesse Hahn, Anthony Ranaudo, Jameson Taillon, AJ Cole, Karsten Whitson, Dylan Covey
LHP – Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale
I originally wanted to leave it at the locks and call it a day, but what’s the harm in stretching this out to attach 32 names to the 32 first round spots? My next set of guesses includes the following names:
SS Justin O’Conner, CF Chevy Clarke, OF Josh Sale, RHP Stetson Allie, RHP DeAndre Smelter, RHP Kaleb Cowart, RHP Kevin Gausman, RHP Matt Harvey, RHP Brandon Workman, RHP Alex Wimmers, and LHP James Paxton
17 “locks” plus the 11 new names brings us to 28 potential first rounders so far. Four more to go. Hmm. Let’s see what four names we can pull out of the old magic hat here…
College Catcher, C Stefan Sabol, CF Angelo Gumbs, RHP Cam Bedrosian
Wouldn’t it be weird if there was a draft-eligible player by the name College Catcher? It would be like my favorite player in the non-Jordan licensed NBA Live 97, Roster Player. To add to the realism, I’d always look at the R.Player in the lineup and just pretend his first name was Reggie. Anyway, College Catcher isn’t actually a real person, but if he was real than I’d mentally change his name to Charlie Catcher whenever I’d see C.Catcher in the lineup. So who will be the 2010 draft’s Charlie Catcher? Odds are good that at least one of the two big college catchers from the junior class will go in this year’s first, I think. That’s why I wimped out and hedged my bets by reserving a first round spot for “college catcher of your choosing.” Feel free to pencil in Miami’s Yasmani Grandal and/or LSU’s Micah Gibbs if that’s the direction you see things going this June. Contrarian that I am, my pick isn’t one of the two junior catchers but rather UC Riverside’s sophomore draft-eligible backstop Rob Brantly. What a twist!
Sabol is a favorite due to his strong bat and great athleticism, but I’m reminded of my fondness of Austin Maddox last year and I get a little gun-shy. Sabol is a much better athlete and runner, but the two share enough similarities with the bat to give me pause. Gumbs gets a mention for two reasons. First, and I’ll be as succinct here as possible, all five tools are first round quality. Easy enough. The second reason I’m sticking here is my belief he fits the mold of the type of player the Phillies could target at pick 27. Then again, Philadelphia’s front office recently came out and specifically mentioned third base and catcher as positions of organizational need that will be addressed this June. Bedrosian’s long been a favorite, so might as well stick with him.
1.1 Washington Nationals: C Bryce Harper – College of Southern Nevada
Steven Strasburg is going first overall in this draft. Book it. One man by his lonesome may not be able to turn a baseball team’s on-field fortunes around, but it only takes one superstar to revive public interest in a moribund franchise. If nothing else, Strasburg has the kind of arm that makes every fifth day a must-see event. He’s got the oft-cited, but impossible to quantify “it”…wait, whoops. This was the intro to my first mock of 2009. Luckily it still works with a couple of easy tweaks. Let’s try it out…
Bryce Harper is going first overall in this draft. Book it. Two men may not be able to turn a baseball team’s on-field fortunes around, but it only takes one superstar position player and one superstar starting pitcher to revive interest in a moribund franchise. Harper has such a head start on gaining the national media’s attention that he’ll be sure to draw fans ranging from obsessively devoted to insouciantly (ooo…all that SAT vocab studying from five years ago paid off!) indifferent to the ballpark, for curiosity’s sake if nothing else. Heck, I’d go.
I realize I may be 100% crazy with this theory, but here goes nothing. The signing of Ivan Rodriguez is a strong data point indicating the Nationals already have made up their mind about the number one pick. Clearly the timeline doesn’t quite work out just right (nearly impossible Rodriguez is still be on the team by the time Harper joins), but it is possible somebody in the Washington front office thinks it would be swell if Harper could spend time with Rodriguez in his first spring training as a professional in 2011. Maybe I’m just trying too hard to wrap my head around the incomprehensible…
Special power, special arm, above-average contact skills, above-average potential as a receiver, and average running speed. That’s Bryce Harper.
1.2 Pittsburgh Pirates: RHSP Jameson Taillon – The Woodlands HS (TX)
There are plenty of different ways to approach a given pick in a mock draft. You can look at a team’s recent drafting history in an attempt to discern notable patterns and trends. You can look at organizational strengths and weaknesses to help partially rule out or narrow down certain positions of interest, e.g. knowing with a high degree of certainty that Houston wasn’t taking a catcher, especially a college catcher, in the first couple of rounds last year. You can also just look at the draft board, check what individual talent is there, and just line up the best player available with whatever team happens to be picking. I try to combine all three components in every mock I do, but I’m slowly coming to realize the last part, the one about staying true to the draft board and slotting players in that way, is probably the surest way to get a mock draft looking like the eventual real deal in June.
That’s why Taillon to Pittsburgh makes sense to me. He’s currently the second highest ranked draft-eligible player on the board. If Pittsburgh sees that the same way, they’ll take Taillon without hesitation, Tony Sanchez signability pick be damned.
I love the willingness of the Pirates to take high upside fliers late in the draft. I go back and forth too much on these things to really have a meaningful draft philosophy of my own, but, if I had to align myself with a pro club’s approach to drafting, I think there would be a lot of similarities between what I would do and what the Huntington Pirates have done over the past two years. Then again, I’ve never been a Tony Sanchez guy at all, dating back to watching him play extensively over the past three years in person along the parking garage ramp at Boston College. Guess that just goes to show how hard it is to really understand what certain clubs will wind up doing on draft day.
1.3 Baltimore Orioles: RHSP AJ Cole – Oviedo HS (FL)
I promise I won’t quote myself all that much going forward, but my positive feelings towards the direction of the Orioles have only gone stronger in the past year. Here’s what I said in last year’s first mock:
Matt Weiters, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, and the fifth pick in the draft. That’s a foundation for something; I don’t know what exactly, but something.
We now know who that fifth pick turned out to be (Matt Hobgood) and we can count newly added and/or 2009 breakthrough prospects like Josh Bell, Zach Britton, Brandon Erbe (he’s more of a reemergence than a breakthrough guy, actually), and a decent haul from outside the first round including Mychal Givens, Justin Dalles, Ryan Berry, Jake Cowan, and Mike Ohlman all as part of the core of the next great Orioles team. On top of all that, of course, is the pick that will produce the highest drafted O’s prospect since Ben McDonald (my goal is to mention him as often as possible, apparently) in 1989. Since 2001, Baltimore has averaged roughly the seventh overall pick in the draft, but they’ve never been higher than 4th. Those two number four overall picks were LHSPs Brian Matusz and Adam Loewen. Ole Miss lefthander Drew Pomeranz and Florida Gulf Coast lefty Chris Sale are potential candidates to uphold my worthless trend of Baltimore taking lefthanded pitchers when they get top four draft picks, but I’m thinking they eschew any kind of recent drafting trends and go for broke by picking the top available talent on the board. AJ Cole, come on down.
1.4 Kansas City Royals: RHSP Kaleb Cowart – Cook County HS (GA)
The Royals always seem like a wild card at the top of the draft, a team willing to go in whatever direction the available talent dictates. 2010 looks to be a draft top heavy in pitching. Cowart has the greatest likelihood of rising up the draft boards of all the “big name” prep arms this side of the Taillon/Cole duo. The vicious movement he gets on his two offspeed offerings (high-80s slider, low-80s split-fingered change) combined with his plus athleticism make him a solid bet to stave off his prep righty competition and claim a spot in the top ten.
1.5 Cleveland Indians: LHSP Drew Pomeranz – Ole Miss
I concede. I have a very hard time seeing Pomeranz as a top half of the first round caliber prospect, let alone a top five pick at this point, but so many publications have him in the top ten that I think I have to relent. I swear I’m not trying to lose whatever renegade street cred I’ve built up (if any), but one of the stated goals for this site was to act as a resource in consensus building when it comes to draft prognostications across the internet. I want to drop Pomeranz, but that wouldn’t be a true reflection of where his present stock stands. If everybody wants to call Pomeranz an elite prospect, fine. I figure the very least I can do is keep his name up high until I can do some more homework on him and definitely say, one way or another, that he will or won’t be picked within the first X number of picks.
In other Indians related news, I ripped the franchise’s 2001-2005 drafts to shreds in this space last year, ending with this conclusion that still makes me laugh to this day (yes, I’m that egotistical):
Soooo…what am I doing wasting my time with this site anyway? Perhaps a better question is what are you doing wasting your time reading this site? Turns out the best way to attempt to rebuild a franchise isn’t though the draft; no, who has the time to go through all that trouble scouting and signing a bunch of kids? All you really have to do is haven an extra Bart Colon hanging around to trade and, poof, you’ve got a farm system to be proud of.
I didn’t hate the top of Cleveland’s draft last year, but, man, did they go heavy with college guys or what? Anyway, I just found it a little funny that the Indians have dealt three Bart Colon’s (CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez) in the past two seasons at least in part to replenish a farm system that has been handicapped by poor drafting year after year. Santana, Hagadone, Brantley, Carrasco, Knapp, Marson, Todd, Barnes, Donald, LaPorta, Masterson…all players acquired in one trade or another in recent seasons. They’ve done a commendable job with their international scouting, but, jeez louise, there isn’t a whole lot of drafted talent to be found in any of their published top prospect lists.
1.6 Arizona Diamondbacks: RHSP Kyle Blair – San Diego
My favorite draft-eligible college prospect had to find a way to get himself into the top ten, right? An above-average fastball that sits in the low-90s, a plus mid-70s curve, and a good low-80s change make for a potent mix in my book. Blair was a big recruit coming out of high school who hasn’t disappointed since joining the Toreros. Love the USD staff, by the way. Blair, Sammy Solis (another potential first rounder), and AJ Griffin (my favorite senior sign, by far) make up one heck of a three-headed monster. Or three-armed monster. Six-armed monster? As for Blair, yes, this is a generous placement on the mock, but it’s defensible not only because of that present three pitch mix but also the chance his peak fastball velocity perks up in the spring. If he is topping out at 94-95 once the season starts, watch out.
1.7 New York Mets: RHP Jesse Hahn – Virginia Tech
Hahn has a huge heater that has helped him hike up his heretofore humble hold amidst fellow hurlers in the draft hierarchy. The best fastball in the 2010 class has been clocked a steady 96-98 with true plus life. Unfortunately for Hahn, there isn’t a whole lot else in his bag of tricks at this point in his development. To his credit, he does throw a curve and a change that both have average potential down the line. Additionally, he has thrown both a slider and a cutter at intermittent points in the past. Neither pitch caught on, but it’s nice to know that Hahn has experience messing around with them at the very least. If one of those four pitches develops into at least a big league average pitch this spring, Hahn will assure himself a spot in the first round as a reliever. If he shows enough with two of those pitches (at least proving they have the potential to be league average weapons, even if they aren’t quite there by June), he’ll go even higher still. Aroldis Chapman has a slider that is already better than any of Hahn’s secondary stuff and a change has shown a ton of potential, but if you squint really hard you can begin to see some similarities between the two.
1.8 Houston Astros: RHSP Deck McGuire – Georgia Tech
Possessing truly one of the great baseball names of the 2010 MLB Draft, Deck McGuire’s scouting profile reads a lot like the man picked two spots ahead of him. His fastball sits 88-91 MPH (peaks at 93) with enough great sink that makes it an above-average pitch despite the less than thrilling velocity. His out pitch is a hard high-70s CB that is in the running for best curve in the college class. His impressive change makes for a fantastic third option, especially when stacked against the typical so-so third pitches you see from amateur prospects at his level. McGuire’s biggest flaws are his off-and-on control and his iffy mechanics, two issues that are very commonly seen in tandem. If a team sees a way to clean up his arm action and help him gain a more consistent release point, he’ll hear his name called in the top fifteen picks on draft day.
1.9 San Diego Padres: RHSP Brandon Workman – Texas
2010 = Year of the College Curveball. First Blair, then McGuire, now Workman. Workman’s version of the pitch is another plus offering, a 77-78 MPH nasty 12-6 hook. His fastball isn’t too shabby either, comfortably sitting in the low-90s with a pretty consistent peak of 95 MPH and has reached 98 in the past. The only issue I have with Workman are the similarities between how he looked as a high school senior and how he looks today. Coming out of high school he had a high velocity fastball and a curve with plus potential. That’s good. What he didn’t have was a quality third pitch and non-cringe worthy throwing mechanics. There has been some noise about a changeup being worked on, but I haven’t personally seen enough proof of the pitch to give it the Baseball Draft Report stamp of approval. There has also been some reports that Workman has cleaned up his mechanics a little bit since enrolling at Texas. If he has, I’m not seeing it. That’s not to say he hasn’t, I’m literally just saying that I can’t really tell the difference between the video I saw of him as a prep player and the real life version of Workman I saw pitch live last year. I’m neither trained to notice such things nor do I worry too much about mechanics in general (remember my mechanics creed – so long as it is repeatable, I’m happy), but I figured it was worth mentioning. Flaws from high school shouldn’t still exist after two full years in college, right? Could be a red flag, could be nothing.
Also, I learned today that one of the Padres team colors is officially called “sand.” Can’t decide if that’s awesome or sad. Because it’s the Padres and I already sort of pity them a little bit, I think I’m going with awesome.
1.10 Oakland Athletics: 3B Nick Castellanos – Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)
Arguably the best high school position player in this year’s class winds up joining up with one of baseball’s premier farm systems. Castellanos is the first high school bat off the board for a lot of reasons. He reminds me a lot of Josh Vitters, but with easier to project power potential and a better, more professionally approach at the plate. So, he is like Vitters, a former third overall pick in the draft, but better in the two biggest areas of concern on his game. He’s Super Vitters.
Total unsubstantiated rumor department brings us this little tidbit – Oakland has a thing for Brandon Workman. Just throwing that out there.
1.11 Toronto Blue Jays: SS Christian Colon – Cal State Fullerton
I’m not quite stubborn/bold enough to put Colon where I really think he’ll wind up in June, so I’ll defer to the experts and keep Colon in the first half of the first round for now. I guess that sort of makes Colon the Drew Pomeranz of position player prospects, huh? Everything I said a few months ago holds up today:
I guess my lack of love for his game comes from me severely underrating the value of a league average big league shortstop (a rookie mistake on my part, I admit) and also being less than impressed when seemingly every scouting report about Colon begins and ends with talk about his personality, leadership, and the way he makes the most of his average at best tools. No doubt Colon’s makeup is totally off the charts and his defensive chops make him a slam dunk to stick at short professionally, but I tend to focus more on the “average at best tools” part of that discussion than the “personality” and “leadership.” I’m both ready and willing to convinced I’m totally wrong on Colon, but that’s where things stand now. For what it’s worth, I’ve only seen Colon play once since watching him in person in high school, so maybe I’m judging him unfairly based on my limited and outdated memory of his skills. Also, for what it’s worth, I have a scouting buddy who has seen Colon play a ton from his junior year of high school until this past summer and he absolutely loves everything about Colon’s game.
I’m totally nuts for maybe possibly almost thinking Gary Brown, Colon’s teammate at Fullerton, is the better pro prospect, right? Brown’s gigantic edge in speed and added pop might just make up for Colon’s clear advantage in both overall defense upside and contact skills, but your mileage might vary.
1.12 Cincinnati Reds: OF Austin Wilson – Harvard Westlake HS (CA)
Honest to goodness, I had a dream last night that I finally published this mock. It was marvelous. After staring at this Word document for over ten days, it was a joy to finally rid my brain of the incessant, nagging thoughts of “who goes where?” and “is this guy ?” and “what’s the damn point of doing a mock over six months and a full amateur season before the actual event?” I hit the tiny PUBLISH button and breathed the sweetest sigh of relief known to man. Then, without warning, my dream turned into terrifying nightmare. The delight my dream-time self was feeling over getting this stinking mock done quickly turned to dread as I realized I forgot to include Austin Wilson. I checked, double-checked, triple-checked…and he was nowhere to be found. Apparently there was neither an edit nor a delete feature in my nightmare, so the omission of Wilson was forced to stand as an ugly black mark against my draft forecasting soul for all of eternity. Maybe I take all this draft stuff too seriously…
Wilson could be this year’s Donovan Tate. Wilson could be this year’s Brian Goodwin. I obviously lean much closer to the Tate side of things, but I’m a sucker for 6-4, 200 pound outfielders rocking the plus power/plus arm combo. The comps for Wilson range from silly (Dave Winfield) to topical (Andre Dawson) to “man, I feel old comparing high school kids to players I loved when I was 10” (Juan Gonzalez, Moises Alou) to intriguingly ultra-modern and therefore ultra-hip (Mike Taylor, Mike Stanton) all the way to completely made up by me just now (Shawn Green, Ellis Burks). It goes without saying that Wilson hitting his ceiling would be blessed to have a career like any of the players listed above (minus the minor leaguers, I suppose), but they do provide some context into what has been said about Wilson’s upside as a prospect so far. The two current minor league comps stick out to me as particularly interesting; Mike Stanton is a comp that mixes Wilson’s most immediate “realistic” upside as top minor league prospect with an equally plausible estimation of his tools (power, arm, good enough speed, should be good defenders in the corner), and Mike Taylor’s name serves as a reminder that Stanford commits like Wilson are always a pain in the neck to get signed.
I was looking over the Cincinnati organizational depth chart to see what kind of future lineup the Reds could throw out if they decided to add Wilson into the mix. They’ve gotten so much good press this offseason as a team on the rise that I was curious to see what kind of future starting 8 they might be able to field. Instead of fleshing out the idea, I became distracted by one name. Todd Frazier. Now I’ve seen a lot of Mr. Frazier over the years, from his high school days right on through his junior year at Rutgers. Through those years, one thing in particular stood out to me about Frazier’s game. Get ready for some seriously hard hitting prospect analysis here. Ready? Sure? Todd Frazier could be Peyton Manning’s body double, if the need for such a thing ever arises. Saw him in high school, remember thinking he looked like he could be the long lost missing Manning brother. By his last year at Rutgers, he was no longer just a random no-name honorary Manning. No, he was Peyton Manning. He is Peyton Manning.
The Ohio high school pitcher I have going fourteenth overall may also make sense if you’re into regional ties impacting drafting strategy. If I had realized the connection beforehand, maybe I would have made Stetson Allie the pick here for the Reds. Maybe next time.
1.13 Chicago White Sox: RHSP Dylan Covey – Maranatha HS (CA)
Remember how my angle for the Cincinnati pick was going to be about the way they are suddenly a team getting a ton of positive buzz? I really can’t tell you how many different places have come out and said the Reds are the Central’s second best team heading into 2010, as well as the team best positioned to take over St Louis when the Cardinals realize spending 98% of your payroll (figure may not be exact) on two players. I’m not necessarily disputing either idea, just pointing out that it has been interesting to see so many sources from all across the baseball landscape (from analytical types to scouty types) all hyping up the Reds lately. Well…
Covey is a little bit like the Reds. He’s the prospect that has gotten a huge groundswell of support over the past few weeks from just about everybody with a keyboard and an opinion on amateur baseball. Just wait, they said. Watch him pitch, they said. His stock will soar, they said. Good call, internet. Covey could have very easily been swapped with Cowart at the number four spot in this draft. If we accept that all pitching prospects come with major questions, maybe we should work towards finding the prospect with the easiest questions to answer. This isn’t a great strategy in general as I tend to be more of a “focus on what a player can do rather than what he can’t do” kind of fellow, but it does serve a useful purpose when comparing so many similarly talented players like the ones featured in this year’s prep righthanded pitching crop. Covey’s questions include inconsistent in-game mechanics, inconsistent command start to start, and a body type that doesn’t inspire much projection going forward. Mechanics can always be tweaked, his command has looked sharper every time I’ve seen him, and the body isn’t anywhere close to Sir Sidney Ponson levels of bad.
1.14 Milwaukee Brewers: RHSP Stetson Allie – St Edward HS (OH)
Back to Gary Brown and Christian Colon for a minute because a couple of comps occurred to me today. How about Brown as Shane Victorino and Christian Colon as a slightly less hacktastic Placido Polanco capable of playing shortstop? Neither comp is perfect, but I think the tools of each player matches up pretty well with their respective big league comparisons.
The ghost of Jack Z would be very proud of this Allie pick for Milwaukee. Big, hard throwing, erratic, and a difficult sign. Sounds about right.
1.15 Texas Rangers: RHSP Cam Bedrosian – East Coweta HS (GA)
I only quote myself because I know 95% of readers only come to check out the mock drafts anyway:
I’ll willingly admit I like Bedrosian more than most talent evaluators do a the moment. One of the reasons I think I like him more than others is simple – short righties don’t scare me. I know I’ve made the Bedrosian/Kyle Drabek comparison before, and I’m happy to mention again in print here. Bedrosian’s 6-0, 195 pound frame doesn’t bother me much at all because it is compact and muscular in all the right places, most notably the legs. His arm action is a thing of beauty with a consistent landing spot and a very smooth, repeatable delivery. Bedrosian’s fastball is a potential plus big league offering, already sitting 90-93 and hitting 95-96, and his curve is on the very short list of the very best high school secondary pitches I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Beyond those two plus/potential plus pitches, Bedrosian can mix in a mid-70s CU and a really exciting high-80s splitter that could grow into a big league strikeout pitch in time. Power stuff (FB, hard CB, SF) combined with at least the occasional appearance of that changeup makes Bedrosian a rare bird among young pitchers. I’m often quick to dismiss bloodlines as a reason for liking one prospect over another, but Bedrosian’s cerebral approach to pitching has pretty clearly been influenced by having a former professional ballplayer as a father.
Drabek had the off the field issues to contend with, but it makes me a little concerned that I have Bedrosian, a wonderful prospect but one with a lesser grade than Drabek at similar points in their development, going higher than Drabek did in his draft year. This one may be a case of letting my own personal take get in the way of making the most accurate mock possible. Oh well, I love this guy. I think he makes some sense for the Rangers here as they continue to build up their young pitching stockpile. In some ways a pick like this is reminiscent of the Michael Main selection in 2007. In other ways, it so totally isn’t. Yeah, think about that one for a while. It’s like a paradox wrapped in poor grammar wrapped by questionable syntax wrapped in a vest.
1.16 Chicago Cubs: RHSP Alex Wimmers – Ohio State
I saw Wimmers a lot last year and every time I saw him I had a similar thought – “hey, this guy is better than I thought coming in.” Good fastball, good sinking changeup, and a plus curve make him a good bet as a first rounder. Speaking of good bets, I made my first group of tiers today while at a meeting at work. This was newsworthy for a couple different reasons. First, while paying more attention on sketching out my rankings than I did on what the presenter was telling me about various co-teaching models, I technically got paid to write about baseball. I’m a professional baseball writer! Second, and actually somewhat seriously, there are a lot of talented players at the top of this year’s draft class. The “lock” group for first rounders was bigger than I remember it being last year, as was the “very likely” group. Without spoiling any surprises, Wimmers was just barely on the outside looking in on that “very likely” to go in the first round group. I’d say that’s a pretty strong indication that the first round isn’t as barren as some have claimed.
1.17 Tampa Bay Rays: LHSP Chris Sale – Florida Gulf Coast
I’d love to check in on Sale’s actual groundball numbers. Every scouting report him mentions his ability to induce weak contact for easy ground outs. That’s an excellent trait for a pitcher to have. Do the scouting reports jive with’s really happening on the field? I mentioned how everybody considers Ranaudo a groundball pitcher because he is big guy who throws on what appears to be a downward plane, but the numbers don’t support it. Sale’s reports mention the groundballs specifically, so I’m way more inclined to believe that he has the skill. Time to start digging through the game logs!
This may be as low as we see Sale on a mock on this site all year. His stuff is going to be too good to keep him from suffering from any post-helium backlash.
1.18 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: RHSP Karsten Whitson – Chipley HS (FL)
It took seventeen full picks to get here, but we made it. The Angels taking Karsten Whitson is the first pick that I can look at and honestly say I have nothing of value to add with my commentary. Whitson has a definite first round fastball, but closer to tenth round caliber secondary stuff and throwing mechanics. The Angels can afford to gamble on such a player with the first of their nine (again, the numbers may not be accurate) first round picks.
1.19 Detroit Tigers (just kidding, it’s now the Houston Astros): 3B Zack Cox – Arkansas
It feels almost dirty not giving Detroit a hard throwing high school righthander, especially in a year with plenty of worthy candidates at this spot. Allie and Whitson both could be possibilities, as could college righthanders Hahn, Workman, and Matt Harvey. Luckily, I can now guarantee Detroit won’t be picking a hard throwing righty in this spot. No way, no how. Now I’m looking for players that would make sense for Houston that won’t screw up any picks later in the first round. Zack Cox makes some sense, but the added leverage the draft-eligible sophomore has makes me a little leery of keeping in this spot. LeVon Washington maybe? Could Ed Wade overrule Bobby Heck’s team of scouts and demand a guy like Kevin Jacob here? They’ve had some success with two-way players before, so maybe Bryce Brentz could fit?
1.20 Boston Red Sox: SS Yordy Cabrera – Lakeland HS (FL)
Is it too late to change this pick to Rob Brantly? I really wanted to include him in the mock so I could make my Rob Brantly = Derek Norris comp that I’ve been so eagerly waiting to unveil. Oh well. I’ve also heard a completely unsubstantiated rumor that links Boston to Virginia outfielder Jarrett Parker, a player with scouting reports that sort of remind me of a poor man’s Ryan Westmoreland. Justin O’Conner could also be a name that makes sense in this spot. I wouldn’t have matched the Red Sox up with Rey Fuentes last year, so I’m not even sure I’m qualified to comment on this pick any furt…
Anyway, let’s talk Yordy. I have to admit that while he isn’t one of my favorite prep bats in this class, I’d be happy to see my favorite team draft Yordy if given the chance. Why? Come on! Yordy! Who among us could possibly resist rooting for a Yordy? It’s impossible question to answer because nobody has ever even tried. I’m powerless to not root for a Yordy. I’d never buy a jersey of a player from a team I didn’t root for (that’s a lie…I’d never buy a jersey period, regardless of team), but I’d definitely consider getting a snazzy Yordy! t-shirt if/when he makes it to the show AND successfully petitions MLB to allow him to just put Yordy on the back of his jersey.
1.21 Minnesota Twins: Anthony Wolters – Rancho Buena Vista HS (CA)
Finally, one that feels right. A first round grade player that fits a position of need for an organization with a track record of drafting guys with similar skill sets early in the draft. A far more advanced Dustin Pedroia is the most commonly used comp. It works in a lot of ways, I think. Wolters has an advanced approach at the plate, phenomenal hands, an accurate arm, and well above-average range. Many are already moving him off of short as a professional, but I haven’t seen anything in his game to think he can’t at least start his career off as at least a league average shortstop defensively. Again, Justin O’Conner also fits the bill here.
1.22 Texas Rangers: Stefan Sabol – Aliso Niguel HS (CA)
Still not sure what position Sabol will eventually call home, but he’ll be a good one wherever he winds up. Actually, that first part is a lie. I do that a lot, apparently. Anyway, it’s not a total lie, but more of a nod to the scouting world consensus that seems to go back and forth on Sabol’s most likely eventual position. So allow me to amend that sloppy opening sentence by changing it up to say while many aren’t sure what position Sabol will play as a professional, I, however would bet a good chunk of change he sticks behind the plate for a good long while. His speed and athleticism (Sabol possesses arguably the best body of any amateur, college guys included) have already earned him Jason Kendall comps, but a comp like that ignores his significantly higher ultimate upside in the power department. The very same speed and athleticism are the reasons why I think so many want to prematurely move him out from behind the dish. True, he is athletic enough to play a variety of different positions, but, like Bryce Harper, his value is highest staying right where he is until he proves he can’t handle catching. He has a true plus arm that will play anywhere, above-average speed that could serve him well in the outfield (you know, just in case), and average to above-average big league power potential.
1.23 Florida Marlins: RHSP Deandre Smelter – Tattnall County HS (GA)
It would be easy to lose track of a player like Smelter in the midst of so many other similarly talented prep righties, but that would be a mistake. Smelter can do just about everything you want to see out of a young pitching prospect. His fastball sits 89-93 MPH with a peak velocity of 97. I’ve seen that peak a lot lower in some places, but I trust the number. Of course, and this is huge, always remember that high school peak velocities almost always come from one inning relief showcase outings. It goes without saying that the 97 wouldn’t hold up as a starter, but nobody does that anyway. Tangent aside, let’s just settle on the fact that Smelter has a strong enough present fastball that he’s actually been criticized for being too reliant on it at times. When he isn’t just blowing it by hitters, he throws an excellent splitter (82-84 MPH) that could be a big league out pitch in time. To go a step further, I’d go out on the limb and say that Smelter’s splitter has the potential to be one of the signature pitches of this year’s draft class; it reminds me a little bit of the split Kevin Brown used to throw to lefties. His repertoire also features a low-80s changeup and a high-70s slider. The slider is currently the better pitch, but it needs serious tightening up going forward.
He is a legitimate three sport high school star (baseball, football, and basketball), a fact that is readily apparent the first time you see him pitch. It’s clear just from watching him that his overall athleticism is off the charts, but it’s just as clear that his delivery and arm action are all kinds of raw. His herky jerky delivery will almost certainly need some polish as a professional. And, yes, herky jerky is the professional term, thankyouverymuch. Anyway, since I’m not an expert on pitching mechanics in the least, here’s my basic theory on what I personally look for out of a pitcher’s throwing motion, reprinted from the first mock I did last year:
A pet scouting theory on mechanics of mine can be summed up like this: The most direct path to smooth, consistent, and repeatable delivery is through outstanding athleticism. Anecdotally, it seems that plus athletes tend to “figure things out” mechanically more often than other pitchers. It could be an offshoot of the great size debate – again, anecdotally it seems pitchers in the 6-0 to 6-3 range tend to be more athletic than the larger, “classic” pitcher’s frame guys (pitchers 6-4 and up). The scouting bias against short pitchers, righthanders especially, has turned them into a valued underappreciated commodity. It’s more than just that, however; these shorter pitchers, once more anecdotally, seem to have better control of their more athletic bodies, and thus smoother, easier to repeat deliveries. Smooth, easy to repeat deliveries lead not only to cleaner injury records but also increased velocity.
Just a pet theory, nothing more. Honestly, my knowledge of pitching mechanics isn’t really at the level where I should be coming up with any half-baked theories. All I look for (or, more honestly, all I really know how to look for) in a young pitcher is repeatability. Even if the motion looks weird and, in some extreme cases, painful, the question I always come back to is can he repeat it every time? If he can, sign him up. If not, back to the drawing board.
So there you have it. Herky jerky delivery or not, Smelter’s outstanding athleticism gives him a better than average chance at figuring things out as a professional. So says me, anyway.
1.24 San Francisco Giants: OF Brian Ragira – Martin HS (TX)
They have to continue their attempts to balance out the arms with some bats in the system, right? Ragira offers up a similar skill set to Anthony Wolters: above-average speed, professional approach at the plate, legit up the middle defense, and a better than average arm. Future Kevin Goldstein Top 11 Fun Fact about Brian Ragira (pick one, or combine two or more for added fun!): his full name is Brian Aosa Mogaka Ragira, he is of Kenyan descent, and his father lived in the next tribe over from where Barak Obama’s father grew up. I’d bet money on it. As awesome a name as Brian Aosa Mogaka Ragira is, can we all agree that it is simply no match for the greatest name in the history of names, Mr. Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo?
1.25 St Louis Cardinals: LHSP Sammy Solis – San Diego
Brian Matusz-lite. The four-pitch mix (low-90s fastball, plus change, above-average slider and curve) is extremely enticing, as is his frame and the low mileage on his arm. The bulging disc in his lower back that knocked him out for most of the 2009 season is just about the only reason why I can see him flying under the radar at this point because he has everything you’d want in a pitching prospect otherwise.
1.26 Colorado Rockies: OF Josh Sale – Bishop Blanchett HS (WA)
Too low? Probably, but I’m still having a hard time getting an actual read on where Sale’s prospect stock currently stands. What I do know is that the man is a hitter. He hits, hits, hits, and hits. He isn’t a slug in the field, but many scouts still believe that he probably profiles best as a big league leftfielder. Boy, first Ragira and now Sale; I’m starting to realize that Goldstein is going to have it really easy with this year’s high school class. If he needs a head start on his fun facts for Sale’s future top 11 piece, he can take the following tidbits free of charge: Sale’s full name is Joshua Ezkiel Gasu Sale and his dad is a native Samoan famous for being a champion power lifter.
1.27 Philadelphia Phillies: 3B Victor Sanchez – San Diego
As a Phillies fan, I can’t help but wonder if sometimes I lean closer towards wishful thinking than objective analysis when it comes time to making a pick for the hometown team. I probably have no business giving the Phillies a college bat in the first round, but, really, I probably have no business making any of these guesses and you’re still reading all the way down here at pick 27, right?
In order for Sanchez to go in the first he is going to have to put together a big junior year. Now that’s true of just about any guy on the mock, doubly so for any player projected to go here at the back end of the first, but Sanchez is facing a more critical 2010 season than most after missing the majority of the 2009 season with a shoulder injury. He’ll need to build on his strong 2009 start if he wants to showcase his considerable talents. At his best Sanchez displays plus raw power, a good offensive approach, and enough defensive abilities to stick at third long-term.
1.28 Los Angeles Dodgers: RHSP Matt Harvey – North Carolina
After Harvey’s hot start last season, I wrote the following on March 1, 2009:
[W]hat is the likelihood, if it exists at all, that Matt Harvey reaches the same level of hype other elite college pitchers (Strasburg, Price, and Prior, to name a few) had heading into his draft year?
Uhh, I’m going to have to go out on a limb here and say that the likelihood isn’t all that good. Controversial answer, I know. It’s probably weird having Matt Harvey in the first round at this point, but, if anything, I actually feel weird about having him this low. A really, really good rule to follow when tracking draft prospects is to remember that once a player shows you a skill, it is his to own. There are obvious exceptions to this, major injuries being the most obvious, but good players just don’t plain forget how to do good things on the field. Elite prospects who don’t sign out of high school tend not to drop too far after three years of college, even if those three years are so-so.
The most recent reports on Harvey have been largely positive: 90-93 sitting velocity with fastball, 94-95 peak velocity, plus 77-80 CB, and a solid sinking low-80s change. The biggest problem with Harvey’s game seems to be his bizarre velocity inconsistency with his fastball. One day you’ll see him pitching in the mid-90s, the next he’ll be down to maxing out at 86 (86!), and then he’ll be back up to sitting 88-90, but still not hitting 96 like before…until the next time out when he suddenly has regained those lost 10 MPH on the fastball. What the heck is that? It’s not even a start-to-start phenomenom, either; Harvey has experienced sudden velocities dips and gains in-game as well. I have no idea what to make of Harvey. If the right scouting director sees him on the right day, he’ll go high. If not, he’ll be lumped in with the rest of the college guys who project as relievers hoping to get a spot in the first five rounds.
I like the idea of the Dodgers taking Harvey one pick before the Angels, the team that couldn’t get him signed back in 2007. I wonder what Harvey’s career would have looked like so far if he would have signed out of high school. He’s a prime candidate for an Alternate Reality Crystal Ball…
1.29 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: LHSP James Paxton – Kentucky
Pretty uneventful past couple of months for Paxton, huh? As we wait and see whether Paxton’s legal team decides to appeal to NCAA’s decision to keep him off the Kentucky roster in 2010, we can take some time to speculate on his professional future. I know I already made the comparison earlier in the mock with Jesse Hahn, but Paxton and Aroldis Chapman probably match up better from an overall talent perspective. Like Chapman, Paxton’s realistic floor is that of a late inning, shutdown reliever. That’s clearly not a floor to be taken lightly. Paxton’s current two-pitch combo (fastball at 92-98 MPH, low-80s plus slider) make him a good enough to pitch in the big leagues right now. The issues with Paxton come down to fastball command and the lack of a consistent third pitch (the change is a work in progress). Getting a chance to address those issues in the SEC this upcoming season could potentially do Paxton’s draft stock a world of good, especially considering the way he directly addressed one of the biggest concerns to his game (control) in 2009 by nearly cutting his BB/9 in half.
If Paxton’s floor is a big league reliever, his upside is a front of the rotation anchor, especially if he shows progress with the changeup this season. I’m always in favor of trying pitchers as starters first and position players at more demanding defensive positions before moving them elsewhere. Paxton’s ability to hold his velocity late (I’ve seen him hitting the high-90s as late as the sixth inning, for what it’s worth) make him worth trying as a starter until he proves that his stuff plays better in the bullpen…or not.
1.30 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 3B/2B Kolbrin Vitek – Ball State
Vitek’s tools all grade out similarly to fellow small school sensation Bryce Brentz. They both have plus bat speed, good plate discipline, and plus power potential. They are also both two-way players who have had success on the mound collegiately, though only Vitek could actually pull of the trick of being a legit draft prospect as either a hitter or pitcher. In addition to a glove/arm combination that will definitely play at third professionally, Vitek does all the little things well that make scouts (and wannabe’s like me) very happy. He is a sensational base runner, works deep counts, and has one of the coolest names this side of Yordy Cabrera. Vitek’s utter dominance of the Great Lakes League this past summer sealed the deal for me. He may not be a first rounder in June, but he is as good a bet as any college hitter in the 2010 to be an impact player in the big leagues.
I only have the Angels taking one high school player out of their three first round picks. That seems like a mistake now, but I tried to err on the side of sure-fire signability. That is something that will almost certainly be adjusted in future mocks. In a strange twist, this is the second year in a row the Angels have had back-to-back picks in the first round. Stranger still, I “drafted” for the Angels in last year’s MVN MLB Outsider: 2009 Mock Draft. My picks last year were Tyler Skaggs and Everett Williams – two high school players! You would think I wouldn’t stray too much from the formula that worked last year, but I’m just not that smart. Next mock for the Angels will be better, I promise.
Speaking of my picks last year for the now-defunct MVN site, check it out:
A closing thought as I run up against the maximum word threshold – watch out for the Angels popping University of Washington OF/QB Jake Locker with an early mid-round pick (early as round 4, late as round 7). Adenhart, Trumbo, and Walden were all risky signability picks, but Eddie Bane and his staff did their homework to know exactly how much each player needed to sign on the dotted line. Locker’s commitment to football and time away from baseball make him as risky a signability pick as any player in the draft, but his raw tools are good enough that some team will call an all-out blitz in an attempt to get him signed. That team will be the Angels, you heard it here first.
The Angels took him in the tenth round. That led to this, probably the coolest bit of mainstream exposure the site has enjoyed since starting up early last year. I’ve long daydreamed of being referred to as “this guy here” and now I can say I’ve truly accomplished something in my life.
1.31 Tampa Bay Rays: OF Bryce Brentz – Middle Tennessee State
Super Nintendo numbers (.465/.535/.930) and comparisons to Nick Markakis’s two-way skill set have gotten Brentz a disproportionate amount of pub when compared to other draft prospects, but, hey, any time a casual baseball fan knows the name of a draft prospect months in advance we have to consider that a strong indicator of the rapid growth of MLB draft coverage. Brentz has special bat speed and should be an above-average defender in right field professionally. I’d love to take closer look at the game-by-game breakdown of Brentz’s ’09 numbers to see the types of pitchers he is doing the most of his damage off of, though the sample sizes involved may not yield any kind of meaningful conclusions. With six months between now and then draft, I’m sure I’ll be able to delve a little deeper into Brentz’s numbers one way or another.
1.32 New York Yankees: SS Garin Cecchini – Barbe HS (LA)
Always important to end on a high note, and I like this match between team and player. Cecchini is an outstanding athlete with a good arm, above-average speed, and very impressive lefthanded power. If you believe he’ll stick at short, then the Yankees can finally claim to have a worthy successor to Derek Jeter in the pipeline. Robbie Aviles, a New York native, is another name that fits here quite well.
- Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands HS, Texas)
- AJ Cole (Oviedo HS, Florida)
Both Taillon and Cole have already had their moment in the sun. Check out a scouting profile on AJ Cole written by some wonderfully handsome writer right here. Click here for an equally insightful profile of Jameson Taillon. If you are far too busy and important to read all those silly words, I’m happy to provide a quick summary. AJ Cole is really good now, and he could be really, really good in the future. Jameson Taillon is really, really good now, and he should stay really, really good in the future. I compared Cole’s upside to Justin Verlander and Taillon’s to Josh Johnson. Too positive? Probably seems that way, but remember we’re talking upside here and, again, remember that AJ Cole and Jameson Taillon both have the potential to be very, very good.
- Cam Bedrosian (East Coweta HS, Georgia)
- Dylan Covey (Maranatha HS, California)
- Kaleb Cowart (Cook County HS, Georgia)
- Stetson Allie (St. Edward HS, Ohio)
- Karsten Whitson (Chipley HS, Florida)
Taillon vs Cole is the marquee prep pitching battle, but the undercard that will decide which high school pitcher goes third will probably wind up being one of the most entertaining subplots of the 2010 draft season. I’ve already done close to a complete 180 spin on my rankings of the non-Taillon/Cole arms and it’s still December. Allie and Whitson positioned themselves as the favorites early on. Covey and Cowart followed those two very closely behind. Also in the mix was the short righthander with the familiar last name, Cam Bedrosian. Previously, I had them ranked Whitson, Allie, Bedrosian, Covey, and then Cowart. Now, as you can see, things are a little different.First, I’ll willingly admit I like Bedrosian more than most talent evaluators do a the moment. One of the reasons I think I like him more than others is simple – short righties don’t scare me. I know I’ve made the Bedrosian/Kyle Drabek comparison before, and I’m happy to mention again in print here. Bedrosian’s 6-0, 195 pound frame doesn’t bother me much at all because it is compact and muscular in all the right places, most notably the legs. His arm action is a thing of beauty with a consistent landing spot and a very smooth, repeatable delivery. Bedrosian’s fastball is a potential plus big league offering, already sitting 90-93 and hitting 95-96, and his curve is on the very short list of the very best high school secondary pitches I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Beyond those two plus/potential plus pitches, Bedrosian can mix in a mid-70s CU and a really exciting high-80s splitter that could grow into a big league strikeout pitch in time. Power stuff (FB, hard CB, SF) combined with at least the occasional appearance of that changeup makes Bedrosian a rare bird among young pitchers. I’m often quick to dismiss bloodlines as a reason for liking one prospect over another, but Bedrosian’s cerebral approach to pitching has pretty clearly been influenced by having a former professional ballplayer as a father.Covey, Cowart, Allie, and Whitson form a pretty logical quartet of high school arms. All four are big fellas (Covey is the shrimp of the group at a round, but athletic 6-2, 200 pounds), with big fastballs (all four have hit at least 95 on the gun at one point or another), and big questions that could define them come draft day. Covey, my current favorite of the four, has the easiest questions (inconsistent mechanics and command, plus a less than idea young pitcher body type) to answer going forward, especially when you consider how far he has come to answer one of those questions (his command has looked sharper every time I’ve seen him) already. Whitson, currently ranked fourth in this little subgroup, has a potential dynamite 1-2 punch with his fastball (sitting 91-93, hitting 95-96) and slider (works best in the mid-80s, but has shown up as a less effective slurvy high-70s CB at times), but I think his mechanics will need something pretty close to a complete overhaul as a professional. Cowart has grown on me just as much as a hitter than as a pitcher lately, but his potential on the mound is still vast. Cowart is as likely as anybody on the list to shoot up to the top of the subgroup and could, I stress could, actually challenge the more established top two if everything breaks right. Everything Cowart throws moves downward, from his sharp high-80s slider to his low-80s split-fingered changeup. Allie has the most electric arm of the foursome, but has been plagued by up and down command and control throughout his career on the high school showcase circuit. He also doesn’t have quite the secondary stuff as some of his contemporaries.
- AJ Vanegas (Redwood Christian HS, California)
- DeAndre Smelter (Tattnall County HS, Georgia)
- Drew Cisco (Wando HS, South Carolina)
The potential of Vanegas’s four-pitch mix (FB, CB, CU, SL) is very appealing, as is his superb fastball command and his ability to add and subtract off of the pitch. Smelter is a plus athlete with plus command and a potentially devastating 82-84 mph splitter. Cisco, like Bedrosian a player with outstanding pitching instincts and a strong background of being around the game, is the kind of player that scouts will keep finding a way to ding (fastball is a little too short, secondary stuff isn’t quite top notch quality), but will continue to get results. Or at least that’s what I think will happen this spring. Cisco’s fastball has hit 92 in the past, but sits 88-90 with the pitch. He has a curveball at 74-77 that is already an above-average pitch in addition to a low-80s CU that has above-average potential. Three potentially above-average pitches (fastball grade gets a boost due to impressive movement and pinpoint command) make Cisco one of the most professional baseball ready arms in all of high school baseball.
RHP AJ Cole (Oviedo HS, Florida)
- 91-93 FB/94-96 peak; has reportedly been as high as 98
- potential plus 76-80 KCB
- average 84-88 SF that acts as a change
- 78-81 SL that appears to come and go from outing to outing (?)
- projectable frame at 6-5, 190 pounds
- Zach Wheeler and Rick Porcello comps
Lots to like about AJ Cole’s game, clearly. His biggest strengths include his present plus fastball velocity, a potential plus knuckle curveball, and that wildly projectable 6-5, 190 pound frame. For a prep pitching prospect, that’s about as close to the holy trinity as you can get. I’m just about positive that I’ve seen Cole throw a splitter and I can’t remember ever seeing him throw a true change, so I’m doing a bit of guesswork when I claim he uses that mid-80s split as a de facto changeup. Without any legit industry source backing me up, I’ll hedge my bets and stick with calling the pitch a “splitter that he uses as a facsimile for a change” for now. Whatever you want to call the pitch, it’s probably a stretch to call it anything more than average right now. That may sound like a knock, but remember how rare it is to see a high school prospect with three present average or better pitches. An average third pitch may not be a negative, but it does highlight a clear area where Cole could stand to improve this spring. There are currently conflicting reports on the existence of Cole’s slider (I personally haven’t seen it), but smarter men than I have clocked it anywhere from 78-81 miles per hour. The similar velocities of the slider and his knuckle curve has me wondering if Cole actually throws two distinct breaking balls at all. If I had to guess, I’d say his actual repertoire consists of a fastball, a spike curve sharp enough that it’s been confused with a slider, and a changeup with above-average downward movement that may or may not be held with an actual splitter grip. A rough conservative breakdown of that arsenal might look something like this:
I see a lot to like in the Cole’s delivery and throwing mechanics. His arm action seems nice and easy and he appears to have little trouble repeating the same consistent 3/4 delivery from pitch to pitch, batter to batter. The one negative thing I can say about Cole’s mechanics is that he seems to rush through each step of his delivery a heck of a lot quicker than most guys I’ve seen. That last problem seems like one that can be corrected with good professional coaching, but that’s an evaluation that will be made on a team-by-team basis this spring.
Speaking of pitching mechanics, allow me to make an admission of apathy on the subject. It’s true, I’m largely indifferent to pitching mechanics. My pet theory is that 99.99% of the baseball watching population can only derive so much usefulness from evaluating a pitcher’s throwing mechanics. In my estimation, all pitching deliveries fall somewhere along a bell curve that looks a little bit like the following – maybe 15% of the time a pitcher’s mechanics are so perfect (Nolan Ryan, for example) that it is abundantly clear whatever he is doing is working and will continue to work going forward, roughly 15% of the time a guy’s mechanics are so obviously cringe-worthy that you can’t help classify his arm as nothing more than a ticking time bomb, and then there is that big fat middle 60% or so that falls somewhere in between the two extremes. If a pitcher has mechanics in that middle part of the curve, I’m willing to change my personal focus from analyzing each individual part of the setup, windup, and follow through (yeah, like I can really do that anyway…) to worrying about a) does the pitcher have any kind of track record of arm problems, b) can the pitcher repeat whatever they are doing on the mound pitch after pitch after pitch, c) does the pitcher maintain velocity of his fastball and sharpness of his breaking balls, and d) does the pitcher tip off the batter by showing clear differences in arm speed when throwing different pitches. Those four things are what I care about most. That is, of course, unless something obviously good or bad (highly subjective, I know) jumps out at me. If enough people I talk to/read like a certain guy’s mechanics, I’m sold. If, in addition to getting a passing mark from somebody I trust, the pitcher is able to repeat his delivery and maintain a consistent velocity while doing so, I’m sold twice over.
The popular industry comp of Porcello works in a lot of ways, but I much prefer sizing the young Florida righthander up with Porcello’s Detroit teammate, Justin Verlander. Verlander represents Cole’s ultimate upside as a big leaguer, but it’s interesting to compare the two pitchers at similar points in their development. Despite possessing a 93 MPH peak velocity fastball, Verlander wasn’t even drafted coming out of Goochland HS (VA). Scouts questioned his shaky control and inconsistent mechanics while also citing concerns over how his 6-4, 170 pound high school frame would hold up as a professional. He embarked on an intense workout program upon enrolling at Old Dominion that helped move him closer to the finished product that we see today. Cole offers a similar velocity floor (low-90s) when compared to the high school version of Verlander, but has the edge when it comes to prep peak velocity as he has been clocked as high as 96-98 MPH at various stages in the past year. So, Cole has a better fastball at this point in his development, plus more consistent breaking stuff and a more advanced overall feel for pitching. If, and it is admittedly a pretty sizable if, Cole’s 6-5, 190 pound frame fills out like Verlander’s similarly projectable high school frame did, then you could eventually be talking about two very similar pitching prospects come draft time. With a little more muscle packed on, Cole’s fastball has the potential to be one of the signature pitches in all of baseball much in the same way Verlander’s heater has emerged as a special offering.
If you don’t like the Verlander comp, or the more popular Wheeler/Porcello industry comps, maybe you like the totally coincidental comparison to a trio of Yankee stars, future, present, and past – Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett, and a bigger and harder throwing version of Mike Mussina. When the upside is Burnett (3 WAR floor), Mussina (future HOFer), and Verlander (2.80 FIP in 2009), and the most similar prospects in reason memory are Rick Porcello ($3.5 million bonus) and Phil Hughes (BA’s fourth best prospect in baseball in 2007), only signability concerns or injury will keep you out of the first ten picks.
Finally got around to updating the signings thread, check it out via the link at the top if so inclined. Because I feel bad about the general lameness of this post (hey, I updated something! = lame), here’s a comment that serves as a quick teaser to some of the 2010 stuff on the way. We’re talking 2010 prep arms here:
Cole and Taillon are 1-2, no doubt, but Whitson, Allie, and Covey are all getting potential first round buzz. I personally loved what I saw on video of Cam Bedrosian. Another big personal favorite of mine is Jesus Valdez, super projectable and already armed with a fastball with sick late life.
I’m also the guy that was telling anybody that would listen (my mom) that Mike Burgess would go higher than Jason Heyward at around this point in the process, so my track record of early projections hasn’t been so great. Hey, I try…
Ha, I actually found my original quote re: Burgess vs Heyward. The internet is a magical place…
As for the question at hand, I personally like Burgess best at this point. The combination of raw power, explosive (though inconsistent) swing mechanics, 94 mph arm strength, playable speed (6.9 60), and baserunning instincts well beyond his years make for a heck of a total package. Heyward and Vitters are both excellent prospects in their own right and any argument supporting either would definitely have merit.
Speaking of Vitters, I’ve really been impressed with him and the group of high school third basemen in general this season. My favorite of that group and minor sleeper come draft day is Victor Sanchez from California. I don’t think I’ll be able to go see any of the top HS third basemen this year in person, but I’d be very interested to see how they stack up against last year’s consensus top high school infielder, Billy Rowell (a player who I was lucky enough to see in person multiple times).
I feel like that quote encapsulates so much of what I’m all about when it comes to the draft. Poor projections (Burgess over Heyward), being too quick to look too far into the future (talking about Sanchez, a prime 2010 draft, back in 2007), and bragging about getting to see a player in person (yes, because seeing Rowell a bunch in high school makes me an expert!). I hope I’ve grown a bit since then, but…I doubt I have. Eh, personal growth is so overrated.