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Washington Nationals 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Nationals 2011 MLB Draft Selections

I admit that I don’t read much post-draft reaction (proof that you can love something like crazy and still get burnt out on it), but the overall enthusiasm for what Washington did on draft day was loud enough that it seeped into the general baseball content that I digested in mid-June. Those first four picks are a thing of beauty, no doubt about it. Each of Washington’s first four picks are flashy names that come with enough of a human interest angle (one-time consensus first overall pick! giant right with giant stuff trying to make giant leap! college star to juco star! former first rounder trying to bounce back from injury!) to hook casual baseball fans – that’s probably why I heard the positive feedback despite avoiding post-draft coverage. Each guy has serious questions, sure, but the talent is clearly evident. Trusting guy that I am, I, well, trusted those who said Washington had a great draft. Outside of their first four picks, however, I’m not sure there is too much to be excited about here. The Nationals signed one and only one high school prospect. The Nationals drafted righthanded college relievers with five straight picks from round six to round ten.

The star quality of Rice 3B Anthony Rendon makes up for a lot of Washington’s lackluster drafting past the third round. This is hardly an original thought, and I know I repeat it more than I should, but it is really tricky finding interesting things to say about the draft’s best prospects. There are only so many ways you can say “yeah, he’s really good at X, Y, and Z, perhaps a bit lacking or flawed in A and B, but, on balance, he should be a really good big league player assuming good health, a typical developmental curve, and the continuation of the existence of mankind after 2012.”

Consider the narrative for Anthony Rendon. If you didn’t know any better you’d think he really “struggled” through a “down” junior season, right? Questions about his long-term health and his power upside with the new bats were quite popular all spring. Fun story, but little about it meshes with reality. After park/schedule adjustments, Anthony Rendon got on base over 53% of the time he came to the plate. The man walked in over a quarter of his overall plate appearances. When he wasn’t patiently waiting out pitchers too afraid/smart to pitch to him, he was putting up a park/schedule adjusted slugging percentage of .537 that, while not mind-blowing, still answers plenty of questions about his ability to hit with the unfortunate combination of a balky wrist and the limp new bats. I’m all for being critical about the prospects at the top, but there is something to be said about not wanting to create weaknesses that just aren’t there. Rendon isn’t a good runner. That’s the biggest negative I can honestly say about his game right now. No prospect is a sure thing, but Rendon is as close of a lock to an above-average big league regular as any player in this draft class. Combine that safety with his legitimate all-star upside, and it is easy to see why Washington was willing to draft Rendon despite the fact he happens to play the same spot as their current best everyday hitter. Speaking of which, I really hope that Washington comes up with some kind of solution that allows Rendon to play third base in the big leagues. He’s just too damn good at the hot corner to move elsewhere. I’m not saying they should move Ryan Zimmerman for Rendon’s sake – if Rendon turns into 3/4th the player Zimmerman has turned out to be, that would be a huge win for all involved. I just want to see some kind of happy solution where all of my selfish needs are met. Not sure I’m being overly demanding in suggesting that having great players playing their best positions is a good thing for the game.

There are a lot of amazing young arms in this year’s draft class, but Rendon is still the top prospect in 2011. There is not a single legitimate concern about his on-field performance. Despite his lack of size and some nagging injuries that held back his numbers some this year, there is little doubt that his power upside is substantial. His defensive tools are outstanding. The hit tool is well above-average and his approach to hitting is special. The two most popular comps thrown his way are Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria. I like the Zimmerman comp a lot, but I’ll toss another two names out there as well. Rendon’s play reminds me of a mix of a less physical, righthanded version of peak years Eric Chavez and current Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis, minus the unorthodox swing setup. Can’t blame the Pirates for going with the rare commodity that is a potential ace with the first overall pick, but if I was in charge — and thank goodness for Pittsburgh or every other franchise I’m not — then Rendon would be the pick without thinking twice.

Kentucky RHP Alex Meyer would be a fun prospect to do a crystal ball report on because his future can conceivably go in so many different directions. He could be a top of the rotation arm, a lockdown reliever, or a total washout incapable of getting past AA. I’m a believer because I think the gains he made in 2011 are real based on the introduction of his sinker and more consistent softer stuff. His biggest issues are almost exactly what you’d expect from a 6’9” 220 pound behemoth: repeating his mechanics and release point and the subsequent inconsistencies with both command and control. I’m banking on his better than given credit for athleticism and hoping that a good pro pitching coach will get through to him, but there’s really no way of knowing which way Meyer’s future will turn out. Ah, the joys of prospecting.

Having seen both young starters in person collegiately, I must say that Aaron Fitt’s comp of Meyer to Andrew Brackman really made me think. Despite what those who only deal with the benefit of hindsight say, Brackman was an outstanding looking amateur prospect. He was at least as highly thought of as Meyer and was quite possibly a better long-term prospect. To put it in some context, the Pirates, the team that picked fourth in Brackman’s draft year, had front office higher-ups (e.g. Ed Creech and Dave Littlefield) in regular attendance at every Brackman start I saw that year. I’m on record as loving Meyer’s raw stuff and I believe he’ll be a top of the rotation anchor once he figures it all out, but the story of Brackman’s pro struggles should serve as a cautionary tale.

Kentucky JR RHP Alex Meyer: sitting 93-97 FB, dips closer to 92-94 later in games; inconsistent but plus 84-86 spike CB that works like a SL; 79-86 CU that flashes above-average when he throws it with more velocity; 92-93 two-seamer; all about command and control – if it is on, he’s incredibly tough to hit; FB is plus-plus down in zone, very hittable when left up; mechanical tweaks are likely needed; 6-9, 220

I heard a pretty crazy comp on Miami Dade JC OF Brian Goodwin that I will share knowing full well it is about as “out there” as any comp you’ll hear. It comes from somebody close to Goodwin – not friend/family close, but more like somebody local to him who has tracked him since his high school days – so take it with a block of salt. I’d imagine that Washington fans would be pretty thrilled if Goodwin can even scrape the ceiling of this Bernie Williams comp. I like the old faster Austin Kearns comp I heard back in the day, but anytime we can make comparisons to a potential Hall of Famer is a good time. Goodwin looked much better as the year went on, so I’m hopeful he’ll continue to show all five tools as a pro. His broad set of tools should make him a solid regular in due time.

[well-rounded with average at worst tools across board; average present power with plus-plus upside; above-average to plus-plus (70) speed; strong arm; fantastic athlete; update: plus athlete; very explosive; some question his swing; 10-20 homer upside as pro; above-average (55) runner; average arm for CF; raw fielder, but all the tools are there; 6-1, 190; DOB 11/2/90]

Texas Christian LHP Matt Purke ranks as one of this draft’s men of mystery. Injuries are the root cause of much of the uncertainty. Without access to his medical records, there is really no way of making a confident prediction about Purke’s future. At his healthiest he throws three plus (or almost plus) pitches: fastball, change, and slider. When banged up, he simply isn’t very good. There’s not much middle ground here.

TCU SO LHP Matt Purke: originally ranked 8th overall, but injury scare drops him; at his best throws 91-95 FB, 96-97 peak; command of FB needs work; potential plus 77-79 CU; solid CB; has shown plus 76-83 SL, but doesn’t use it anymore; SL was inconsistent, but best in upper-80s; plus makeup; sat 88-92 to start 2011, now down to upper-80s; loses feel for offspeed stuff quickly; 6-4, 180

Santa Barbara CC LHP Kylin Turnbull is a tough nut to crack. On the surface, his skill set paints the picture of a really good potential reliever. Case in point: he has an excellent fastball for a lefty, but struggles with velocity loss as innings pile up. Knife to your throat – I prefer my own grislier imagery to the played out “guy to your head” trope – I’m betting that “good lefty reliever” would be the consensus on Turnbull’s ceiling. A more daring prognosticator – or, simply, one without the fear of death driving the prediction – might look at Turnbull’s pro-caliber size, hard splitter with promise, and a slider that could be kind of sort of maybe decent after tons of reps and believe he could hold his own as a backend starter down the line. I’m hesitant about making such a bold claim (he’s more of a maybe reliever for me), but lefties with size and velocity are always in demand.

Santa Barbara CC SO LHP Kylin Turnbull: 88-92 FB, 94 peak; loses velocity early; above-average low-80s splitter; SL need work; 6-4, 200

Poor Georgia Tech 3B Matt Skole. You are in the wrong organization, my friend. If we’re talking about the possibility of Anthony Rendon moving off third or even picturing a world where a franchise player like Ryan Zimmerman moves on via trade or free agency, then what hope is there that things will work out just so and allow Skole to play third base in Washington. Like Rendon, I hope Skole gets the chance to man the hot corner somewhere, someday. His defensive tools (arm, athleticism, footwork, etc.) are better than his current ability, so one would think, given time and reps, that he could at least become average at the position. Adding the value of average defense at third on top of his existing patient and powerful bat would make him a good bet to become a solid regular down the line.

It took me a while to warm up to Skole, but I’d rather be late to the party than too stubborn to change my mind. The plus power bat should play wherever you put him (first base is a safe fall back option, catcher is the riskier but more appealing choice), though it would obviously be preferable if he can continue to work to turn his surprisingly strong defensive tools (good arm, decent foot speed, quality athleticism) into at least league average caliber third base defense.

Vanderbilt RHP Taylor Hill was my seventh favorite senior sign in 2011, but you could make a really strong argument that he’s the senior with the highest ceiling. Hill takes the notion that keeping the ball down is good and turns it up to 11. His sinker/slider combo is deadly when on, and his split-change drops clear out of the strike zone when he has it working. I tend to think of him as more of a groundball specialist reliever (his stuff definitely plays up in short bursts), but continued improvement in pro ball could allow him to start.

Vanderbilt SR RHP Taylor Hill: 88-91 FB with plus sink, 93-94 peak that I’ve seen with my own two eyes, have heard rumors of him hitting 95; 79-85 plus SL; very good 78-83 sinking CU also called a splitter; mechanics need smoothing out; 6-4, 225 pounds

I’ve seen more of Notre Dame RHP Brian Dupra over the years than I’ve seen certain members of my own immediate family. His fastball gets there in a hurry, but it flattens out badly when he either a) overthrows it, or b) gets deep into his pitch count. His slider is a good enough second pitch that he still has a chance to contribute as a relief arm at some point. Also helping his cause is his newfound upper-80s cutter that could become a weapon with continued use. He’s a better shot than many to help a big league pitching staff, but still a long shot.

Notre Dame SR RHP Brian Dupra: 91-95 FB; 88-91 cutter; good 79-81 SL; CU; 6-3, 205 pounds

Alright, now this is just getting ridiculous. I get that Washington spent so big on their first four picks that they had to dip into federal funds to pay everybody off – so that’s why my district keeps closer schools! – but are you really telling me they had to completely ignore the high school ranks and go back-to-back-to-back with college seniors in rounds 6, 7, and 8? One or the other, maybe, but doing both is no way to build up the kind of organizational depth an emerging franchise like Washington needs to keep the big league roster fresh. North Carolina RHP Greg Holt, come on down. Like new UNC reliever Derrick Bleeker (we’ll get to him soon), Holt has been known as much for his raw power at the plate as his pitching prowess. He has the fastball/slider thing down pat, so there is a chance he’ll pop up in a few years as a viable relief option. I’d rank the three seniors in the same order Washington drafted them with a really large gap between Hill and Dupra, and then a slightly smaller gap between Dupra and Holt.

Now Holt is a relief prospect with a fastball that sits 88-91 (93 peak) and a good low-80s slider.

I once had such high draft hopes for California RHP Dixon Anderson. Alexander, a fourth-year junior, was in line for a big 2011 season, but never found the velocity he lost from the previous season. He once showed the power stuff – mid-90s fastball, above-average low-80s breaking ball, and an emerging splitter – needed to excel in a relief role, but may have to reinvent himself as a sinker/slider/cutter guy if his four-seam heat doesn’t return. All in all, Anderson is a worthy gamble at this point in the draft.

California SO RHP Dixon Anderson: 92-94 FB; 96 FB peak; very good low-80s SL; splitter; 6-5, 225 pounds (4.89 FIP; 5.68 K/9; 3.55 BB/9)

Cuban born Barry RHP Manny Rodriguez, yet another older righthanded relief prospect from college (that’s five in a row!), impressed in his first taste of pro ball. His fastball was more consistently hitting his mid-90s peak, and the upside shown with his curve has some thinking it could be an above-average pitch in time. A nascent change gives his supporters hope he can stick in the rotation, but I believe Rodriguez would be best served airing it out in shorter outings. As much as I don’t approve of Washington using five straight early picks on college righthanders likely destined to the pen, getting one (likely), two (maybe), three (probably pushing it, but who knows) cost-controlled big league relievers out of it would help alleviate the temptation to go out and spend big bucks on volatile veteran bullpen pieces. As one of the great philosophical minds of our time once said, “that ain’t not bad!”

I always have admired Houston OF Caleb Ramsey’s (Round 11) approach to hitting, but fear he is too much of a tweener both offensively and defensively to ever rise above a AAA depth ceiling.

Great to see oft-injured Indiana LHP Blake Monar (Round 12) get the chance to give pro ball an honest shot. He’s a soft-tosser known for a big plus curve who has battled back valiantly from injuries.

mid- to upper-80s FB, peak at 87-88; plus CB; SL; injury set back progress in 2010; 6-2, 185 pounds

I can’t wait to see Walters State CC OF Cody Stubbs (Round 14) back on the field playing against major college opposition this spring. Going from Tennessee to Walters State to North Carolina certainly qualifies as the road less traveled, but Stubbs’ nomadic existence is not due to a lack of on-field talent. He has a chance to rise way up draft boards and get early round consideration in a year with little in the way of impact college bats.

Due to a similar positional reclassification (OF to 1B), Stubbs’ prospect stock gets the same artificial boost as fellow first baseman Jacob Anderson’s. Easy to like Stubbs’ power to all fields and above-average athleticism for a big man (6-4, 225). I remember thinking he could be a top five round prospect after three years at Tennessee. Things obviously didn’t work out for Stubbs as a Volunteer, but the talent that led me to that original conclusion hasn’t evaporated. If he slips past round five, as I think he will, you could wind up with a player with high round ability at the cost of a low round pick.

Biloxi HS (MS) RHP Hawtin Buchanan (Round 19) is upside personified. He’s big, he throws hard, and, due to the fact that he is big and already throws hard, he could very well throw very hard down the line. The reports on his curve improving as his senior season went on are really encouraging. That kind of aptitude will serve him well as he tries to put everything together and get himself a first round grade in a few years.

RHP Hawtin Buchanan (Biloxi HS, Mississippi): 89-91 FB with room to grow, 93-94 peak; good command; raw CB, but much improved as year went on; strong Mississippi commit; 6-8, 230

Tennessee 2B Khayyan Norfork (Round 23) was a favorite in college, but a long shot to contribute anything at the big league level. Somebody I know in the know dropped a Junior Spivey comp on him. That got a good laugh out of me, but not because it is a silly comp or anything. Who in their right mind would comp a player now or ever to Junior Spivey?

I wanted so badly to include Norfork on my preseason list, but chickened out at the last minute for reasons still unknown to me. He’s got the prerequisite leadoff man skill set — plus speed, great jumps from first, good bunting skills, some patience, some hit tool — and the defensive versatility to play around the infield. I don’t think he has the bat to ever log consistent starter’s at bats, but unlike a few of the guys chained to 2B now and forever, Norfork should be able to move around the infield in a backup’s role with success.

The comment from last year (below) on Arizona State LHP Kyle Ottoson (Round 24) holds true today. He’ll head back for one last year at one of America’s most entertaining campuses to continue to build his junkballing crafty lefty street cred. (EDIT: Ottoson’s senior year will be at Oklahoma State, not Arizona State. Totally forgot about this.)

Ottoson’s strong commitment to Arizona State makes him another difficult sign. He doesn’t have a present above-average pitch, but throws three pitches (85-88 FB; 76-79 KCB; low-70s CU) for strikes.

You have to believe Washington scouts saw local product Georgetown C Erick Fernandez (Round 25) plenty over the years. Fernandez went to Georgetown despite being recruited by schools like NC State and Miami out of high school. He has retained much of the athleticism from his days as a middle infielder and his defense is top notch. All told he isn’t likely to be more than an organizational player, but he could hit his way into a backup role someday, especially if Washington likes how he works with some of their young organizational pitching talent.

He’s more than just a courtesy draft, I swear! South Carolina LHP Bryan Harper (Round 30), older brother of Bryce, has good enough stuff from the left side to hang around pro ball for at least a couple years. His size and mature, if still inconsistent, offspeed stuff are plusses. His upside is obviously limited and he’ll have to keep proving himself for years in the minors, but Harper has more of a shot than other older brothers of more famous top draft picks ever did. Jake Mauer, I’m talking about you.

Harper: 88-92 FB; solid 76-78 CB; emerging CU; 6-5, 190 pounds

If Southeast Guilford HS (NC) SS Josh Tobias (Round 31) can handle the defensive responsibilities at either center field or second base, he’s a potential early round pick in 2014. His raw power is exceptional for a man his size and his speed is at least an average tool (potentially much better than that depending on what day you see him run). I’d almost always err on the side of pro instruction over college, but spending three years working with the brains behind the resurgence of Florida baseball works just fine. Like a few of the other “ones that got away” you’ll read about below, Tobias has first round potential in 2014.

[above-average to plus-plus speed; very strong; plus raw power; leadoff profile; ability to stick in CF will make or break him]

San Diego RHP Calvin Drummond (Round 34) has always had better stuff than results, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can put it all together this season for the Toreros.

San Diego SO RHP Calvin Drummond: 91-93 FB, 94 peak; 84-87 cutter/SL; 78-79 CB; 83-84 CU

Howard JC RHP Derrick Bleeker (Round 37) could really turn heads this spring as a late-inning relief option for the Tar Heels. He fits the reliever mold in all your typical ways: he throws hard (mid-90s peak), shows a breaking ball, and has intimidating size (6-5, 220 pounds). Bleeker is also a talented hitter with massive raw power who should get more and more at bats as the season unfolds.

Stanford LHP Brett Mooneyham (Round 38) is a little bit like a less famous Matt Purke. Both guys were big stars in high school that turned down sizable bonuses to play college ball. Both guys saw their stuff drop drastically because of a multiple injuries. And both guys were drafted by Washington in 2011. They are like twins! Purke signed, but Mooneyham will give it one more shot for Stanford this spring. He has the size and offspeed repertoire (love the cutter, like his change and breaking ball) to succeed, but his draft stock and pro future will be determined by his ability to reclaim his once above-average low-90s fastball. In this year’s so-so college class, Mooneyham has top three round stuff if healthy.

Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham: 88-90 FB, 91-92 peak; sits 90-92 now; also seen 87-91; weak FB this summer at 86-88, 90 peak; average 78-80 SL; good 75-78 CB; good CU; 6-5; improved cutter; missed 2011 season due to finger injury

Mississippi 1B Matt Snyder (Round 44) is an all-bat prospect who faces very long odds if he hopes to play in the big leagues. That doesn’t take away from him being an excellent college slugger. Ole Miss is loaded with future talent, so Snyder will get his chances to impress scouts from the first pitch to the last out this season.

Positive reports on Snyder’s bat this spring had me give him a slight boost, but his defense, speed, and arm are all really weak. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is likely to be back for his senior season.

Georgia OF Peter Verdin (Round 39) has set himself up to become one heck of a 2012 senior sign. He’s a great athlete with plenty of speed for center field and intriguing raw power. There has been some talk in the past about his defensive skill set working behind the plate. All that is missing is the teeny tiny matter of actually putting those tools to use on the field. Guys are senior signs for a reason, after all. If Verdin can put it all together, he could jump up close to 30 rounds next year.

Dorman HS (SC) 3B Hunter Cole (Round 49) will join Verdin in the Georgia lineup this spring. He could also play alongside Verdin in the Bulldogs outfield if the coaching staff prefers the incoming freshman there instead of at third. If he stays at the hot corner, I think he has the offensive upside and defensive tools to become a first round pick.

Cole is another really tough sign (strong Georgia commit) with loads of raw power and good defensive tools. His bat is currently way more advanced than his glove, so maybe part of the idea of heading to Athens is to polish up his overall game and help him pop up as a first rounder in 2014.

5 College Baseball Box Scores of Interest (Weekend of 3/4/11)

Winthrop 4 Notre Dame 2

I can’t really remember what made this particular box score stand out, but I must have copied and pasted it into a Word document for a reason. Could it be the 0-4 leadoff performance of the Mick Doyle, also known as college baseball’s best name to university fit? Perhaps. Or it could have been the good pitching matchup between Cole Johnson and Tyler Mizenko that lived up to the billing. Johnson’s talent (slightly above-average fastball and good slider) has too often surpassed his performance on the field. A big senior season could put him in line to be one of the top mid-round senior signs. Then again, and I realize I’m taking this whole “2011 college class has potential to be historically great” thing too far, this could be a historically great group of college pitching senior signs. Off the top of my head (or a Ctrl + F of “SR” of my 2011 college pitching Word doc), the 2011 group of senior sign pitching includes a whole boat load of potential big league middle relievers like Scott Matyas, Tyler Wilson, Brett Harman, Randy Fontanez, Patrick Johnson, Corey Pappel, Thomas Girdwood, TJ Walz, Steven Maxwell, Taylor Hill, Cole Green, Michael Rocha, James Nygren, Tim Kelley, Ryan Woolley, Rick Anton, Brian Dupra, Elliott Glynn, Kevin Jacob, Nick Fleece…the list goes on and on. Mizenko, on the other hand, is a damn fine junior prospect who has struggled with his stuff in the early going. His fastball velocity has been down and his typically sharp slider hasn’t been, well, sharp. I still like Mizenko’s upside as a potential three-pitch starting pitcher.

Villanova 4 UNC Wilmington 3

Villanova ace JR RHP Kyle McMyne is a personal favorite, so I’m always interested to see how he does against quality lineups. Wilmington’s lineup certainly qualifies, especially leadoff hitter Cameron Cockman and three-hole batter Andrew Cain. McMyne, one of the most consistent high velocity arms in the 2011 draft pool, delivered with a strong 7 inning, 10 strikeout outing good enough to get him the win. I’ll hopefully be seeing a lot of McMyne this spring, so expect a few firsthand accounts if all goes according to plan.

Texas 4 Stanford 3

It was hard to pick one game out of the big Stanford-Texas. Then I figured, since this is college baseball after all, just go with the Friday night game. You know Taylor Jungmann is a good prospect when the biggest, and arguably only, question about his game focuses on his workload rather than his stuff or performance. The difference between Jungmann and Matt Purke is so minute that it really wouldn’t be a surprise to see team’s prefer the fresher arm (Purke) over the arm that has been “Augied.” We’ll see. Also, weird that a pitcher with Mark Appel’s stuff could ever go 7.1 innings pitched with only 2 strikeouts.

Nebraska 2 UCLA 1

Mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating: Trevor Bauer struck out 17 (!) batters in 10 (!) innings. Despite Bauer’s gem, UCLA still managed a way to lose. I wish I had mentioned this before the season started and the UCLA bats went cold, but the Bruins’ lineup is really underwhelming from a prospect standpoint. At first I thought my concerns about the their offense wouldn’t impact the 2011 team from a performance standpoint; certain college programs can be built on quality college hitters just doing enough to win behind excellent pitching and be quite successful. Now I’m officially worried that the lack of offense could hurt UCLA’s on-field bottom line. Outside of a solid prospect outfield (Keefer, Amaral, Gelalich, and Allen), there isn’t a lot of pro upside there.

Florida 1 Miami 0

59 batters stepped to the plate…only 10 reached base. Ground ball machine Hudson Randall (65% of his non-K outs recorded via the grounder) was particularly great on the mound (7 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K).

 

Friday Night Lights – College Baseball’s Best Pitching Prospect Performances (2/18/11)

1. I am a long way away from actually finalizing my college pitching rankings, but I’m pretty much locked in on who will sit atop the list. As impressive as Texas Christian SO LHP Matt Purke (4 shutout innings) and Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann (9 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K, only 95 pitches) performed, UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole (9 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 11 K) is the man. Better believe they’ll be more on him to come over the next few weeks.

2. Texas A&M JR RHP John Stilson was only omitted from the previous entry because he slipped my mind, but, really, the guy belongs in the top college arm discussion with the likes of Cole, Purke, Jungmann, et al.  Perhaps it is for the best that the least well known major college pitcher gets his own space, so we can fully appreciate his sustained run of dominance. Stilson’s 2010 season (14 K/9) was the stuff of legend, and his transition to starting on Friday nights (6 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K) has started with a bang. My favorite part of his Friday line: 18 outs recorded, 9 via strikeout, 9 via groundball, 0 fly balls. He’s a starter all the way for me, despite the sentiment that he is too much of a two-pitch thrower to get through the lineup multiple times. I’ve heard too many positive things about both his changeup and his slider to believe differently.

3. Washington State JR LHP Adam Conley opened some eyes by peaking at 95-96 MPH on Friday. My earliest notes on him have him sitting 86-88 with a peak between 90-92. Amazing what some time working with a great college staff can do for a kid. Credit should also be given to Conley (by all accounts a really hard worker), as well as the natural maturation that comes with growing into a sturdy 6-3, 185 pound frame (up 15 pounds from his freshman year).

4. The Cole Hamels’ clones just keep coming. It isn’t just Conley with the mid-90s heat and a plus changeup. Virginia JR LHP Danny Hultzen (check out his Friday night two-way line: 2-4, BB, 3 RBI and, more importantly, 6.2 IP 3 H 1 ER 1 BB 10 K) and Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley (he pitched Saturday, but I’m cheating to make a point…5.2 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 10 K) both offer outstanding four-pitch arsenals that include that magic mid-90s fastball and plus change combo that I love. Heck, all three of these guys were big favorites before they bumped up their velocity because of the way they reminded me of Vanderbilt’s Mike Minor, one of my favorite draft prospects of the past few years. Here’s what I said about Minor on his draft day, by the way:

LOVE Mike Minor – good enough velocity, plus change, either the curve or the slider will be a plus pitch down the line (I think), great command, very good athlete, smooth delivery, repeatable mechanics, pitched at an outstanding program. This pick will get panned by everybody, but they are wrong – Minor is an absolute keeper. I had him at 18 on my big board, so maybe I’m full of it by saying he was a great pick at 7…but, factoring in signability, it’s a very good, very safe pick.

5. Hultzen may be the best junior two-way player in the land, but Florida SO LHP/1B Brian Johnson has to be tops of the sophomore class. His Friday looked very similar to Hultzen’s: (2-4, 2 2B, RBI, R and 6 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 6 K. Bonus fact: Johnson faced the minimum number of batters in his 2011 debut. Hultzen is a pitcher all the way, but Johnson is seen as talented enough to go either way at this point.

6. Really happy to see Notre Dame SR RHP Brian Dupra healthy and pitching well (7 IP 7 H 2 ER 0 BB 5 K) once again. Dupra looked like a top five round lock heading into his junior year, but injury and ineffectiveness forced him into returning for his senior year in an attempt to reestablish his draft stock. I haven’t heard anything about his stuff on Friday, but if it reached pre-injury levels (mid-90s FB, hard cutter, good low-80s SL), then he could position himself as one of the top college power pitching prospects, as well as easily the most desirable college pitching senior sign.

7. Another interesting draft prospect and college senior, Oklahoma SR RHP Michael Rocha, put on a show this Friday: 7 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 7 K. Rocha doesn’t have near the velocity of Dupra at his best, but thrives on his funky breaking stuff, good command, and high pitching IQ. Rocha’s one-hit performance was matched by Alabama JR LHP Adam Morgan, who put up the following line: 5.1 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K. Unlike the power fastball lefties mentioned above, Morgan instead follows in the footsteps of the more typical, pitchability style of crafty college lefties. The lack of a big fastball stings a little less when you have a plus curve, a pitch that I think ranks in the top ten of its type amongst 2011 college draft prospects.

8. The college pitching in Texas this year is Gottfried Leibniz level deep. Jungmann and Stilson may be the headliners, but fellow Lone Star ballers Texas State JR RHP Carson Smith and Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett could wind up at the tail end of the first round with big springs. Their respective debuts (Smith: 2 IP 3 H 1 ER 0 BB 4 K; Verrett: 3 IP 6 H 4 ER 1 BB 3 K) weren’t as pretty as I’m sure they would have liked, but both continued to show the first round quality stuff they’ve grown famous for. Smith has the frame (6-5, 220) and a fastball to dream on, while Verrett potential for four above-average pitches is tantalizing.

9. Two of my favorite Conference USA prospects put up unique lines that deserve a little love. Check out the Friday line for Southern Miss SR RHP Todd McInnis: 8 IP 5 H 0 ER 0 BB 7 K. Very good line, right? What makes that performance truly exception, assuming there wasn’t a typo on the box score, is the following: he threw 45 pitches! Is that even possible? At least 21 pitches were thrown to get those 7 strikeouts. That leaves 24 pitches to get the 17 remaining outs. Incredible, if true. The line for Central Florida SR LHP Nick Cicio was impressive, if significantly less rare: 3 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K. That’s an example of how a college lefty straight out of central casting (mid-80s fastball, good change, slurvy breaking pitch) can dominate out of the pen.

10. Think we could all agree that a line of [9 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 8 K] would make for a darn fine outing by any starting pitcher. It also works as a pretty great combined line shared by two legit mid- to late-round 2011 draft prospects. In a performance reminiscent of peak years Legion of Doom, or, my sentimental personal favorite, The Natural Disasters, Wichita State SR RHP Tim Kelley (5 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K) and SO LHP Brian Flynn (4 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 2 K) tag teamed to shut down the opposition on Friday night. Both pitchers profile best as middle relievers professionally, with Flynn getting more current buzz due to his readymade WWF size and strength (6-8, 240…so big I had to double check on the website to make sure I didn’t copy it wrong in my notes).

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Bonus! Stanford SO RHP and potential 2012 top ten pick Mark Appel (5.2 IP 8 H 2 ER 1 BB 4 K) didn’t quite light the world on fire with his opening night line, but the velocity pickup in his stuff (FB now peaking in the upper-90s, SL now peaking mid-80s) had everybody taking notice. If he can integrate his changeup (plus potential there) more as the season goes on, he’ll head into 2012 on the short list of candidates to go in the top three. Back in February 2009 I had him as the 9th best prep righthander, sandwiched between Daniel Tuttle and Matt Graham. This was his quick writeup:

Appel’s strong verbal commitment to Stanford will drop him down draft boards, but he is a great athlete, with a wiry frame with room to fill out, an impressive hard slider, solid change, and the ability to play around with his fastball (mostly by cutting and sinking it). The Cardinal normally get their man, so Appel’s signability will be something to keep on eye on.

GO/AO Data Update – May 20, 2010

The plan is to start with pitchers who took the mound last Friday night and update the rest of the weekend totals throughout the day. No special order to the pitchers listed, just throwing them up based on where their name falls on my spreadsheet. GO/AO data has now been updated to include all starts (when applicable) through May 20, 2010.

Missouri JR RHP Nick Tepesch: 54%
Louisville JR RHP Thomas Royse: 53%
Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz: 47%
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale: 61%
LSU JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo: 37%
Georgia Tech JR RHP Deck McGuire: 49%
Notre Dame JR RHP Brian Dupra: 61%

Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray: 70% (!)
UCLA SO RHP Gerrit Cole: 53%
Stanford SO LHP Brett Mooneyham: 61%
TCU FR LHP Matt Purke: 63%
Kentucky FR LHP Taylor Rogers: 56%
TCU SO RHP Kyle Winkler: 54%

GO/AO Data Update (through May 2)

First, a special thank you to everybody who reads the gibberish I churn out on a semi-daily basis around here. April was the best month from a traffic standpoint in the history of the site, besting the previous high watermark set last June. We’re up over 200,000 visitors and climbing. Thank you.

Second, another thank you for anybody who has commented or emailed over the past few weeks. I’ve read everything readers have sent in and learned a whole lot in the process. No one man can cover the draft by himself, so the help I receive in the comments or via email goes a long way in getting the best quality draft coverage out in the open. Thank you. Responses will finally be coming this week, so be on the look out for that.

Third, here’s a quick idea of what I’ve got on the agenda for the next week or so, in no particular order:

  • Mystery Draft – High School Outfielders
  • College Position Ranking – Shortstops and/or Catchers
  • Alternate Reality Mock Draft – All Players Must Go to College (all members of 2007 prep class draft-eligible)
  • 2010 MLB Mock Draft! Finally!

Anything else? I’m always open for suggestions.

Fourth, data! Top dozen groundballers in my admittedly not 100% comprehensive database:

  • Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray: 2.73 GO/AO
  • Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis: 2.33 GO/AO
  • Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn: 2.33 GO/AO
  • South Carolina JR RHP Sam Dyson: 2.13 GO/AO
  • California SO RHP Dixon Anderson: 2.13 GO/AO
  • Florida State JR LHP John Gast: 2.11 GO/AO
  • Stanford SO LHP Brett Mooneyham: 2.09 GO/AO
  • Texas SO Taylor Jungmann: 2.00 GO/AO
  • North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey: 1.89 GO/AO
  • Miami JR LHP Chris Hernandez: 1.86 GO/AO
  • Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale: 1.69 GO/AO
  • Notre Dame JR RHP Brian Dupra: 1.67 GO/AO

Now for the top half dozen…airballers?…in the same database:

  • San Diego SR RHP AJ Griffin: 0.44 GO/AO
  • LSU JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo: 0.57 GO/AO
  • LSU JR Austin Ross: 0.60 GO/AO
  • Cal State Fullerton SO RHP Tyler Pill: 0.62 GO/AO
  • UCLA SO RHP Trevor Bauer: 0.73 GO/AO
  • Georgia JR RHP Justin Grimm: 0.84 GO/AO

Data – Friday Night Starting Pitchers

Something about Clemson’s Friday night lineup caught my eye recently. Anything about the following configuration of names look unusual?

Chris Epps
Mike Freeman
Jeff Schaus
Kyle Parker
Wilson Boyd
John Hinson
Brad Miller
John Nester
Will Lamb
Casey Harman

No? How about when you look at it from the official Clemson baseball website? Anything?

It is entirely likely that I’m 100% insane, but the way the names are configured in that lineup is just a little bit too perfect. You could draw a line down the right side of the last names and almost get a perfectly straight line. It would look darn near perfect if not for Mike Freeman near the top and starting pitcher Casey Harman at the bottom; their names each have 11 letters total, first and last.

The entire lineup in total letters (first and last name, including the pitcher):

9 – 11 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 8 – 11

The third through eighth batters in the lineup all have exactly ten letters in their names! Amazing!

It’s the little things in life we find amusing sometimes, right? Thank you all for humoring me, now please do enjoy some exclusive ground out percentages from a sampling of college baseball’s finest Friday night starting pitchers.

School – Year – Pitcher – % of batted ball outs classified as “ground balls”

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North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey – 69%
Notre Dame JR RHP Brian Dupra – 65%
Miami JR LHP Chris Hernandez – 64%
Kentucky JR LHP Logan Darnell – 64%
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale – 62%
Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz – 52%
Tennessee JR LHP Bryan Morgado – 51%
Ohio State JR RHP Alex Wimmers – 50%
San Diego JR RHP Kyle Blair – 50%
Georgia JR RHP Justin Grimm – 46%
Missouri JR RHP Nick Tepesch – 45%
Louisiana State JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo – 41%

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Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray – 72%
Texas SO RHP Taylor Jungmann – 69%
UCLA SO RHP Gerrit Cole – 59%
Rice SO LHP Taylor Wall – 55%