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Gerrit Cole: 2011 MLB Draft First Overall Pick?

I apologize for starting the week with a math problem, but…

Really busy baseball watching weekend +
Blue Screen of Death seconds before I hit post +
stupidly trying to type a post directly on site and not in Word doc +
Wordpress autosave feature not quite living up to my misguided hopes =

A really quick uncut summation of what I’ve seen out of Anthony Rendon’s biggest competitor for the draft’s number one spot, UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole. This is a rare case where I can combine all sorts of fun factors (video, three separate years of live personal “scouting,” and, as always, all of the written and spoken information from people way smarter than I am about this stuff that I could possibly digest) into formulating an opinion on a prospect. Here’s what I’ve got…

UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole (2011): 4-seam: really easy 92-96 four-seam FB, 97-99 FB peak; 98 on last pitch of opening day complete game; told by scout that he is unique in that he appears to hit 98 “whenever he wants” with FB; between velocity, movement, and improved command, the FB is a legit plus-plus pitch; speaking of command…relatively poor FB command through middle of sophomore season, but the improvement in this area has been nothing short of remarkable; holds velocity exceptionally well; 2-seam: 92-94 two-seam FB with above-average sink; Cutter: not personally 100% sold on the difference between the two-seam and the cutter (remember: I’m no professional, just a guy with a hobby), but enough smart people are labeling the pitch as a cut fastball at 87-91; Slider: plus 81-87 SL (more commonly and more effectively thrown harder at 86-88); was clocked harder still (consistently 87-89) on SL this past summer; Change: personal favorite offering is his excellent sinking extra firm 83-87 (!) CU with plus upside; pitch seems to get better with every outing;

By now regular readers know that I love forcing comps where they don’t necessarily belong. In the unlikely scenario I am ever forced to give a comp for Gerrit Cole or be forced to watch Miguel Cairo swing at the first pitch in what seemed like every single at bat during his Phillies tenure on loop, I’d throw this one out there as a potential ceiling: potential future teammate Felix Hernandez. Both have/had explosive fastballs, plus upside with unusually hard slider and changeup, similar enough builds (this one might be a stretch…), early questions about command and delivery…obviously this isn’t a perfect comp, but it is a rough outline of what kind of package Cole will bring to whatever pro team is lucky enough to draft him.

Three More Quick Thoughts on College Baseball’s Third Weekend

1. The elite college pitching is really hard to keep up with. On Friday night, the trio of Andrew Chafin (10 K’s), Gerrit Cole (8), and Tyler Anderson (14) combined to total 24 innings of shutout, 9-hit baseball between them. Not to be outdone, Sonny Gray (9 IP 3 H 1 ER 0 BB 15 K) and Danny Hultzen (7 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 11 K) also dominated in their Friday night matchups. Hultzen, the early favorite for the Golden Spikes Award, helped himself at the plate and on the base paths yet again, this time by walking three times and stealing two bases. On the year he has allowed 9 base runners in 20.2 innings on the mound while reaching base twice as often (13 hits and 5 walks in just over 40 plate appearances) at the plate. On the other end of the spectrum, it was disappointing to see Nick Tropeano struggle a little bit on the big stage against North Carolina, but, in what could be definitely be considered a silver lining (or grasping for straws at a really tiny sample size), he did manage to keep UNC’s best hitter Levi Michael quiet. Also disappointed to see Taylor Jungmann throw 120 pitches. I’ve been hesitant to downgrade Jungmann, but, in a year with so many premium college arms tightly bunched at the top, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility to see Jungmann dip below similarly, or in some cases slightly less, talented arms with more favorable college usage patterns.

2. Remember Player A from Friday? The guy who fit the following description: potential plus hit tool; line drive machine; gap power upside; leadoff man profile with above-average speed and good plate discipline; solid defender in CF; average at best throwing arm that grades out higher in terms of accuracy than strength; good track record with wood; great athlete with a pro body; 6-2, 175 pounds? That guy? His line for the weekend (6-9, BB, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB, K) fit in nicely with his scouting report. 6 hits, all singles. Player B, meanwhile, was described like this: great physical strength; plus raw power; plus bat speed; average speed; average arm; good range in a corner; pitch recognition, or lack thereof, could make or break him; 6-2, 195 pounds. His line (7-12, 2 HR, 3B, 2B, BB, 6 RBI, 4 R, 2 SB, K) was also in line with the scouting reports (especially the power outburst), except with improved plate discipline. All in all, good weekends for both Johnny Ruettiger and Jason Coats.

3. No rhyme or reason behind the methodology of choosing players for this list, other than the desire of wanting to spotlight batting lines that intrigued me enough to jot down. As a draft-eligible sophomore coming off of an uninspiring freshman campaign, Andrew Susac was a prime “wait and see” player for me heading into 2011. It is still early, but, man, it is easy to like what the guy has done so far. All stats are from the weekend of 3/4 to 3/6…

  • Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac (7-13, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, 8 RBI, 9 R)
  • Bethune Cookman JR C Peter O’Brien (6-11, 2 HR, 2B, 6 RBI, 4 R, K)
  • Connecticut JR SS Nick Ahmed (4-5, HR, BB, RBI, 3 R, 2 SB on Saturday followed by 0-4 on Sunday)
  • St. John’s JR SS Joe Panik (7-11, 2B, 4 BB, 4 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB, K)
  • Virginia JR LHP/1B Danny Hultzen (2-4, 3B, 4 BB, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB)
  • LSU JR OF Mikie Mahtook (3-9, HR, 2B, 4 BB, RBI, 5 R, 3 SB, 2 K)
  • Oregon State SO OF Garrett Nash (5-12, 2B, 2 BB, 4 RBI, 9 R, 3 HBP, 2 SB, K)
  • Rice JR OF Jeremy Rathjen (4-12, 2 2B, BB, 3 RBI, SB, K)

Another draft-eligible Oregon State sophomore is primed to rise up draft boards if he can keep stringing together weekends like this past weekend’s. The biggest questions Nash needed to answer this spring surrounded his hit tool and the early returns, from a scouting perspective anyway, are positive enough. The big weekend only brought his season line up to .200/.409/.233, but the plus-plus speed and potential for plus defense in center remain strong points in his favor.

Batted Ball Data 2011

Requirements for this are super simple: 1) pitchers must be eligible for the 2011 MLB Draft, 2) pitchers must have allowed 15 batted balls in play, 3) pitchers must either be above or below my arbitrarily decided upon standards (over 75% ground ball percentage, under 40% ground ball percentage). It should also be noted that it has only been two weeks, so, really, we’re going on about as little meaningful data as possible here. First, the ground ball machines…

Arizona JR RHP Kyle Simon: 92.0%
Texas A&M JR RHP John Stilson: 91.3%
Oregon State JR RHP Sam Gaviglio: 80.8%
Villanova JR RHP Kyle McMyne: 77.8%
Connecticut SR LHP Elliot Glynn: 77.3%
Oregon JR RHP Madison Boer: 75.0%
UAB SR RHP Ryan Woolley: 75.0%

Simon and Stilson have combined for 44 ground balls out of 48 batted ball outs. That’s crazy. Stilson’s power stuff has gotten plenty of pub, but Simon’s underrated grounder-inducing repertoire (plus fastball movement, good splitter, much improved slider) should have him moving up draft boards this spring. Extra credit for the lefthanded Glynn cracking the list.

UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole: 38.1%
Alabama JR LHP Adam Morgan: 31.3%
North Carolina SR RHP Patrick Johnson: 30.0%
North Carolina State JR RHP Cory Mazzoni: 29.6%

I have no explanation why Cole doesn’t get more ground ball outs. Going off memory, I’m pretty sure he had a very low ground ball percentage last year as well.

Quick Statistical Look at 2011 MLB Draft Pitching Prospects

In absolutely no particular order, 2011 draft prospects that finished last season with over 10 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, minimum 50 total innings pitched. For reference’s sake, prospects expected to go in the top three rounds are in bold…

Kentucky JR RHP Alex Meyer

Missouri State JR RHP Dan Kickham

Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Noe Ramirez

Virginia SR RHP Tyler Wilson

Maryland SR RHP Brett Harman

Vanderbilt JR RHP Sonny Gray

Texas A&M JR RHP John Stilson

Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann

Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett

UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole

UCLA JR RHP Trevor Bauer

Washington JR RHP Andrew Kittredge

Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley

Virginia JR LHP/1B Danny Hultzen

Mississippi JR LHP Matt Crouse

Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham

Arizona State JR LHP Mitchell Lambson

TCU SO LHP Matt Purke

Northeastern JR LHP Andrew Leenhouts

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).

***

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%

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”

***

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%

***

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

2011 MLB Draft Prospect: UCLA RHSP Gerrit Cole – Proceed With Caution

UCLA SO RHP Gerrit Cole (2011) is obviously a sensational prospect, as most pitchers with three potential big league plus pitches tend to be. His recent outing against fellow top 2011 prospect Sonny Gray of Vanderbilt had scouts buzzing, but maybe not for the reasons that first come to mind. True, his performance against a quality Commodores’ lineup was impressive (5 IP 4 H 2 ER 2 BB 8 K), and his stuff (sitting FB at 92-95, explosive peak FB at 97-99; plus 81-87 SL, excellent 83-84 CU) was as good as advertised. The following, however, was what got those in attendance really talking:

Vanderbilt 1st – Harris hit by pitch (1-1). Esposito hit by pitch (3-2); Harris advanced to second. Westlake struck out swinging (1-2). Giobbi reached on a fielding error by 3b (1-1); Esposito advanced to second; Harris advanced to third, out at home ss unassisted. Casali hit by pitch (1-1); Giobbi advanced to second; Esposito advanced to third. Reynolds struck out swinging (1-2). 0 runs, 0 hits, 1 error, 3 LOB.

Harris, boof! Esposito, powie! Casali, vronk! Putting people on base is not a good thing for a pitcher to do, a simple fact that even Batman himself (ZGRUPPP! was always my favorite) couldn’t argue with. And I promise this isn’t a random thought brought on by a sudden irrational burst of machismo or anything like that. No, it’s about the way Cole went about establishing the inner half of the plate in the early stages of a big game. That can be something that separates a really good pitching prospect from a special one. Cole is clearly a special prospect whether or not he goes out and plunks three batters in the top of the first like he did last Friday, but it’s a comfort to know that he’s fearless pitching around the plate.

2010 College Baseball’s Second Weekend Kicks Off

61 pages. 18,962 words. That’s the current status of my “College Draft Notes” Word document that I’m soon ready to unleash to the general public. I only really mention it because last night, at around the 18,000 word mark, Word stopped working for a moment to send me a notice saying the automatic spell check feature had to be disabled due to the excessive length of the document. Needless to say, that was a first for me and, for some reason, I really got a kick out of it. Anyway…

Sonny Gray v Gerrit Cole on tap tonight. That’s pretty damn exciting. I remember liking Gray over Cole when they were high schoolers, but the development of Cole’s secondary stuff has been nothing short of amazing. As outstanding as the 2011 draft class is shaping up to be, I’d still bet good money that the real debate at the top will come down to Rendon v Cole. Battle lines will be drawn, prospect ideologies will be tested, brother will oppose brother…all because of the soon to be raging Rendon v Cole debate. Anyway, again…

Some of the best of the best college baseball has to offer in the second weekend of the season. Some of the biggies are abundently clear like Vanderbilt @ UCLA, Stanford @ Texas, and Texas Christian @ Cal State Fullerton, but some upset specials could be on the forecast in series such as Maine @ North Carolina, Wright State @ Clemson, Elon @ Rice, and Texas State @ Baylor. Other intriguing matchups (mainly listed for prospect watching reasons) include Louisville v Michigan, South Carolina @ East Carolina, James Madison @ Coastal Carolina, Tennessee @ Oregon State, Oklahoma v Valparaiso, South Florida v Ohio State, San Diego State @ San Diego, Boston College @ Auburn, St. John’s v Minnesota, Notre Dame v Illinois, Kent State @ Wake Forest, Ohio @ Middle Tennessee State, and Oregon @ Hawaii.

College Baseball Opening Night 2010 – Friday Starters

“Big” Name 2010s

Georgia Tech JR RHSP Deck McGuire – 7 IP 5 H 0 ER 0 BB 10 K
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHSP Chris Sale – 2 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 2 K
LSU JR RHSP Anthony Ranaudo – 5 IP 1 H 0 ER 2 BB 6 K
North Carolina JR RHSP Matt Harvey – 5.2 IP 5 H 3 ER 2 BB 3 K
Ohio State JR RHSP Alex Wimmers – 6 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K
Georgia Tech JR RHRP Kevin Jacob – 1 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 3 K
Mississippi JR LHSP Drew Pomeranz – 4 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 7 K
Georgia JR RHSP Justin Grimm – 5 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 6 K
Tennessee JR LHSP Bryan Morgado – 5 IP 4 H 3 ER 2 BB 6 K
Baylor JR RHSP Shawn Tolleson – 6 IP 5 H 3 ER 3 BB 11 K

Not really a bad line out of the entire Opening Night starter bunch, I’d say. Pomeranz’s command was shaky, Ranaudo’s stuff wasn’t as sharp as it could have been, and Harvey was all over the place with his control, but, all in all, a darn fine night for college baseball’s aces.

*** Sale only pitched two innings because he’s being saved for this upcoming Wednesday’s huge game at Miami. He was incredibly sharp in this one, hitting the mid-90s with regularity. Sale vs Miami is shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated early season mid-week games in recent memory.

*** Baseball America had Harvey sitting 92-94, touching 96. Lack of control or not, that kind of velocity this early in the season is an excellent sign for Harvey, a pitcher with a history of inconsistent radar gun readings.

*** Best publicly available groundout ratios of the night belong to Harvey (10/1 ground out to air out ratio) and Wimmers (7/1). Use that information anyway you see fit.

“Lesser” Name 2010s

San Diego SR RHSP AJ Griffin – 6 IP 6 H 4 ER 0 BB 8 K
East Carolina JR RHSP Seth Maness – 5.2 IP 6 H 4 ER 1 BB 4 K
Notre Dame JR RHSP Cole Johnson – 5.1 IP 5 H 2 ER 0 BB 2 K
Virginia JR RHRP Tyler Wilson – 3 IP 2 H 0 ER 2 BB 4 K
Clemson JR LHSP Casey Harman – 5 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 3 K
Louisville JR RHSP Thomas Royse – 5 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K
Arkansas SR RHSP Michael Bolsinger 5 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 6 K
Florida JR RHSP Tommy Toledo – 3.1 IP 3 H 0 ER 2 BB 4 K (WP, 2 HBP)

*** Griffin had a bizarre 1/9 ground out to air out ratio. I’m almost positive Griffin was a significant groundball pitcher last year, so it’ll be interesting to see if this one start was an aberration or the start of a larger trend.

*** Johnson has a solid reputation and good stuff, but he still hasn’t been able to harness his natural talents to dominate at the college level. The solid line he put up on Friday is indicative of his college performance thus far. Steady results, uninspiring strikeout numbers.

*** Wilson is coming out of the bullpen because Virginia has a pitching staff that rivals that of some minor league teams, but his stuff is good enough to start professionally. He’s a top ten round player.

“Big” Name 2011s

Vanderbilt SO RHSP Sonny Gray 8 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 8 K
UCLA SO RHSP Gerrit Cole – 6 IP 1 H 2 ER 0 BB 9 K
Texas SO RHSP Taylor Jungmann – 7 IP 7 H 1 ER 1 BB 8 K
Virginia SO LHSP Danny Hultzen – 6 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 4 K
Kentucky SO RHSP Alex Meyer – 5 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 8 K

Totals: 32 IP 19 H 7 ER 8 BB 37 K

Those five 2011 arms are something special. I’ve been toying with a 2011 Mock Draft for a couple of days and every time I do a rough sketch of the first ten to fifteen picks or so, all of the names above appear…but each time I do it, I come up with a new order. I think I like them in the order I have them above, but that’ll change, oh, about ten thousand times between now and next June.

The GO/AO numbers for the quintet: Jungmann – 9/1, Cole – 7/2, Hultzen – 9/3, Gray – 10/4, and Meyer – 2/4.

“Lesser” Name 2011s

Baylor SO RHSP Logan Verrett – 7 IP 9 H 6 ER 1 BB 5 K
Rice SO LHSP Taylor Wall – 3 IP 4 H 3 ER 2 BB 3 K

Verrett and Wall both struggled some in their debuts, but they are still both 2011s well keeping a close on eye, Verrett especially. He’s a pitcher that would be getting a lot more attention (talked about as a serious top of the first half round candidate) if he wasn’t part of such a loaded class. Timing is everything, I suppose.

2010 MLB Draft Prospect: Jameson Taillon

RHP Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands HS, Texas)

  • heavy 92-94 FB; also seen at easy 93-95; most recently hit 96-97
  • plus 77-84 CB; 75-76 maybe?
  • underutilized 76 CU with real potential
  • 83-84 with SF
  • plus command
  • 6-7, 230 pounds
  • popular comps include Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Beckett, and, wait for it, Roger Clemens…

[Before I get to all of the drawn out prose I had originally planned, let me add this late edit that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the piece, but was too good to let pass. Random Anonymous Scout (so take it for what it’s worth) told me the other day that Jameson Taillon could currently pitch out of a big league bullpen and hold his own. Pretty high praise, I thought. It also reinforces the idea in my head that Taillon is the 2010 version of Tanner Scheppers, another talented fastball/power curve guy that I thought could pitch out of the bullpen from day one if called upon. For the record, I don’t advocate either guy pitching exclusively out of the bullpen professionally, although I get why it makes sense for Scheppers to go that route. Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled Taillon scouting profile…]

The first sentence in my entirely hypothetical yet undoubtedly terrible essay entitled “Why I Love Following Pro Sport Draft(s)” might go a little something like this: “There’s a very obvious thrill that comes in forever chasing the next big thing…” One of my favorite parts of following the respective drafts in all of the major sports is the lack of and/or conflicting information out there about certain players. This isn’t so much a problem with NBA and NFL draft coverage where the college game is televised seemingly every day of the calendar year, and I can never personally name more than 3 players in a given NHL Draft, but the Rule 4 MLB Draft is different. Sure, baseball’s draft coverage has become more prevalent what with the rise of many quality rogue handsome bloggers — which reminds me that I have to update the sidebar links in the coming days — in conjunction with increased output from the major media standbys (BA/Kevin Goldstein/Keith Law), but information regarding the skills of specific draft prospects, high school guys mostly, can be very, very hard to find, especially outside of the top handful of big name prospects. I like that. I like the mystery that comes with nobody having a 100% idea of the ins and outs of a player’s particular skill set.

(Incidentally, one of my ideas for “proving” the NBA and NFL Drafts get more coverage than the MLB counterpart was by comparing Google hits for each phrase. I figured “NFL Draft” would have the most by far, “NBA Draft” would be a clear second, and either “MLB Draft” or “NHL Draft” would bring up the rear. How wrong I was. “MLB Draft” produced more hits than any of the others. Go figure.)

The lack of concrete information regarding specific players makes following the baseball draft all the more rewarding in the end. You can really come up with just about any wacky justification about why you prefer Player X over Player Y as long as you can back it up with some kind of reasoned argument. It’s damn hard to say with any kind of certainty that any one player is definitely, absolutely, positively a better prospect than another; there are too many variables at play. Prefer Player X? Fine, but tell me why. Hope your team drafts Player Y? Alright by me, so long as you can explain the relative pros and cons of the two.

There normally is more exposure given to college athletes and certainly more of a significant statistical base to draw from, so arguments over which college players make the best pro prospects have more of a “right/wrong” feel to them. Arguments about prep players, however, can be spun in any number of directions. With limited and/or conflicting information to go off of, it’s inevitable that personal preferences will come into play. If you are predisposed to believing the changeup is the neatest pitch around, then chances are high you are going to elevate the ranking of a pitcher with a plus change. I watched a college game a few years ago next to a scout that told me that his scouting director was only interested in college pitchers with at least two above-average to plus pitches. Another scout chimed in that his scouting director told him that any prep pitchers taken by his time were required to at least show three different pitches, no matter the quality. We all look for different ways to differentiate the good prospects from the so-so prospects, and, perhaps more importantly, the great prospects from the good prospects.

There are a lot of different ways one can evaluate high school pitching prospects, with no real right way or wrong way of reaching a conclusion.  Of course, let’s be honest here – there is little accountability on my end when it comes to how I rank these guys. I take pride in my work and am ridiculously appreciative of every single reader who stops by, but I understand my job isn’t on the line when I endorse one player over another.  One of the things that really stood out to me in really digging deep into the high school pitching prospect ranks last year was how rare finding a high school pitching prospect with two present plus pitches is. Jameson Taillon has those two pitches.

Taillon will easily sit in the low-90s as a professional, with a peak fastball that has already reached the high-90s. He is close to a finished product coming out of high school as I can remember in recent years, a fact that will unbelievably work against him as draft day draws closer. The comparisons to fellow top high school righthander AJ Cole are inevitable. AJ Cole has a plus fastball and a potential plus curve; Jameson Taillon has a plus fastball and a present plus curve. Taillon also has the current leg up with his changeup, although he hasn’t really shown the pitch off in real game situations just yet.

It’ll be really interesting to see if the Cole vs Taillon storyline emerges as a viable draft subplot this spring. The two young arms are a study in contrast, despite sporting similar high end velocities and offspeed stuff. Additionally, both young righties have top of the rotation upside. Cole may ultimately have more upside, but there is little arguing he is currently further from reaching it. Taillon is the more finished product, but some scouts worry he is currently throwing better than he’ll ever throw professionally. In a world that encourages controversy by demanding that all things boil down to building up one side of an argument while simultaneously tearing down the other, it would not be the least bit surprising to see plenty of people frame the Cole vs Taillon debate in this way. There is no problem with picking a favorite horse in the race, heck it’s part of the whole reason this site is around. Building up one player is appreciated, but I don’t see why it has to come at the expense of another. I guess it’s just the subtle different between Cole over Taillon (or vice versa) and Cole vs Taillon; I’m hoping for the former, but I fear we’ll see more of the latter.

The consensus on Taillon’s mechanics seems to indicate there is more good than bad with his delivery. Repeated looks at Taillon have me believing that the scouts know what they are talking about here. I think Taillon’s shoulder looks a little stiff, and he takes too short a stride on his follow through, but I like his consistent release point and the powerful high leg kick. He has a tendency to drift toward the 1st base side, but it’s hardly a cause for concern because he manages to drift off in almost the exact same manner every time he does it. That seems to be the overarching theme with Taillon’s mechanics. Even if an individual aspect of his delivery is unconventional looking, it at least remains the same with every pitch he throws. Taillon’s massive frame and unique arm action enable him to keep nearly everything he throws down in the zone. Righties have taken some ridiculously bad swings against him, repeatedly banging his sinking fastball/slider combo into the ground for routine outs.

I can’t really speak to the rather generous comps to Strasburg, Beckett, and Clemens, but I think it’s pretty clear that Taillon is a far more well-rounded prospect than Gerrit Cole was coming out of high school in 2008. To take it a step further, Taillon’s scouting profile reminds me a little bit of what scouts said about Josh Johnson as he was coming up through Florida’s system. While I’m not brave enough to claim Taillon will ever have a pro season quite like the one Johnson just had, I have no problem pointing out that Taillon is currently a better prospect than Johnson ever was. Taillon has a better overall fastball, better secondary offering (though Johnson’s slider has turned into a real weapon professionally), and eerily similar command, makeup, and mound presence. The light clearly went on for Johnson enough to turn him from a good prospect to a great pitcher, a perfect example of how different developmental paths can be for different players. There’s no telling what kind of path Taillon will actually take, but the fact that he even has the chance to follow in the footsteps of a guy like Johnson is darn exciting.

A thought just occurred to me. I may be a bit overzealous with some of my comps, but let’s go with what I’ve got so far, for argument’s sake if nothing else. If AJ Cole is Justin Verlander and Jameson Taillon is Josh Johnson, and neither player is excepted to go number one overall in this draft, then what is there really left to say about what kind of prospect Bryce Harper is?

College Baseball Weekend Five – Pitching Retrospective Continued

So much pitching to recap, so little time…

  • Relievers, relievers, and more relievers

Jake Morgan, redshirt sophomore from the University of Mississippi, gets a special mention for his complete wipeout of Alabama: (2 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 6 K)

Long, lanky Matt Miller (6-6, 215) of Michigan’s great outing (3 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 5 K) pushed his K/IP total to 16/12.2 on the season. It’ll interesting to see if he is in the mix for a starting spot for the Wolverines next spring.

Preston Claiborne has been a consistent strikeout per inning got out of the bullpen at Tulane since arriving on campus. His latest outing is a continuation of his success: 2.2 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 4 K

Steve Kalush is a less well known name than Claiborne, but has had similar success as a collegiate pitcher. The Santa Clara is another strikeout per inning guy. His weekend outing: 2 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 4 K

I love the adjective “hulking” when it describes a pitcher. Luke Demko is 6-6 and pushing three bills, but as nondescript college relievers go, he’s a good one. Demko could be a nice late round senior sign flier of a pick. His weekend: 2 IP 0 H 0 ER 1 BB 3 K (7th save)

Taylor Hill, a Vanderbilt sophomore talented enough to start for a lot of teams but forced to relieve for the pitching-rich Commodores, put up the following line: 4 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 6 K. I’m thinking Vandy would be a good candidate for the next college profile piece…they are completely stacked with prospects, both hitting and pitching.

  • Non-prospect performance of the week

Alex Rivers, teammate of Kalush’s at Santa Clara, put up this beauty of a line against Dartmouth: 7 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 11 K. Yeah, it was against Dartmouth, and, yeah, Rivers is a short righty without much of a pro future, but this strong outing is worthy of praise. Here’s to you, Alex Rivers!

  • Starting pitching prospects, now and in the future

Chris Rusin (Kentucky, 2009) – 9 IP 7 H 2 ER 2 BB 11 K against Vanderbilt. What I like best about Rusin is the steady increase in performance each year he has been in school.

Matt Harvey (North Carolina, 2010): 2 IP 7 H 7 ER 2 BB 1 K
Kyle Winkler (Texas Christian, 2011): 0.1 IP 5 H 6 ER 3 BB 0 K

Two really rough outings for two really good young pitchers. Winkler is a huge personal favorite – consider my love for him as a prospect partially due to my reverse short righthanded pitching bias.

Justin Grimm (Georgia, 2010): 5.2 IP 3 H 1 ER 3 BB 9 K
Gerrit Cole (UCLA, 2011): 5 IP 6 H 2 ER 1 BB 6 K, 101 pitches

Grimm is well known in scouting circles, but I consider him a 2010 sleeper anyway because even though he’s expected to go high in his draft year, I think he’ll go even higher – love his 30/7 K/BB ratio in just 25.1 innings. The odds-on favorite to go number two overall in 2011 keeps on doing his thing for the Bruins…

DJ Mauldin (Cal Poly, 2009): 8 IP 6 H 0 ER 0 BB 6 K, 12/4/1 (GO/AO/LO)…another short righty with a big game.

  • Strong outings, but heavy workloads…

Tyler Blandford (Oklahoma State, 2009): 8 IP 3 H 2 ER 3 BB 11 K, 117 pitches
Chad Bettis (Texas Tech, 2010): 8 IP 8 H 3 ER 3 BB 8 K (11/5 groundball to flyball ratio), 129 pitches

College Pitching – Out With the Strasburg, In With the Harvey; Last Day of February Retrospective

Pitching, pitching, pitching. It seems like all we ever do around here anymore, right? The most noteworthy pitching performances from college baseball’s second Saturday of the season below, but, before we start, a quick recap of some recent stuff you may have missed this weekend…

College Mid-Week Update, featuring the battle between Mike Leake and Kyle Gibson
All Strasburg, all the time!
College pitching from the second Friday night of the season

Matt Harvey (North Carolina): 4 IP 0 H 0 ER 2 BB 7 K, 2 separate games

Comparing any college pitcher to Stephen Strasburg is unfair and irresponsible, so let’s do it anyway. Strasburg will be the first overall pick of the 2009 Rule 4 Draft. Matt Harvey is the early favorite to go first overall in 2010. Below is a fair and responsible look at how their numbers stack up so far:

Harvey’s line: 9 IP 3 H 3 ER 2 BB 18 K (1 WP, 1 HBP)

Strasburg’s line: 12.1 IP 8 H 2 ER 3 BB 27 K (1 WP, 1 HBP)

Harvey

K/9: 18
K/BB: 9/1
GO/AO/LO: 3/3/2

Strasburg

K/9: 19.7
K/BB: 9/1
GO/AO/LO: 4/4/1

In the weird and wonderful world of amateur baseball, performance doesn’t always necessarily tell the whole story, what with park factors, levels of competition, strength of schedules, and relatively small samples and all. It’s hard to line up two statistical profiles and draw any kind of grand conclusion. But the raw numbers comparing Strasburg and Harvey do suggest similar performances thus far, something I think is pretty interesting.

There are reasons every move Strasburg makes is newsworthy and I’m not not not trying to say that anybody here or elsewhere is sleeping on Matt Harvey (he’s a big deal and has been for a good long while), I’m just throwing this out there as a lead-in to my question – what 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?

Six other pitchers to watch after the jump… (more…)

College Baseball 2009 – All Freshman Prospect Team (Class of ’11)

The regular season college baseball season begins this Friday, February 20th – I know, I can’t believe it either. Content this week is going to be extremely college-centric because, quite honestly, college opening day really can sneak up on a guy. Lots and lots and lots of college content this week, so be forewarned.

To celebrate the return of baseball into our everyday lives, let’s take a stroll around the college baseball landscape and see what we see. What better starting point than the youngest of the young, the players with that wonderful new-ballplayer scent, the college freshmen? After the jump, enjoy a sampling of some of the finest freshmen — non-draft-eligible, although some listed players are actually part of the 2010 draft class — to watch this season…

(more…)

Looking Forward to the Past

Catchy title, right? There’s not quite enough there to keep it from being pretty much meaningless, but it’s just snappy enough to somehow appear superficially deep. A long time ago, a wise man was heard to remark, “In order to look forward, we must first reconcile what we’ve learned from the past.” Alright, a wise man didn’t actually say that. Unless you consider me a wise man, something I promise you yourselves would be wise not to do. And it wasn’t said a long time ago either. Not unless thirty seconds constitutes a long time, that is. There was a point here, I promise.

There Were Ten Tigers

Photo Credit: There Were Ten Tigers

Oh, right. In lieu of following my own not-so-strict personal content schedule, I thought we’d instead wrap up our look at the ’09 prep righthanders by comparing this year’s class of high school pitching with the 2008 group. We’re looking back at the past to learn a little something about the future. I love it when it all comes full circle like that. No conclusions can really be drawn on data (such as it is) one year out of a draft class’s debut, so this exercise is more about the casual talent comparison of the ’08 prep righties and the ’09 class. One thing it is definitely NOT about is filling time and space with a quick and easy post because other more substantive stuff isn’t quite ready. No sirs and madams, that’s not it all…

2008 Prep Righthanded Pitchers – Personal Top 15 [as of 6/08]

1. Ethan Martin
2. Alex Meyer
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Ross Seaton
5. Jake Odorizzi
6. Zeke Spruill
7. Tim Melville
8. Kyle Wieland
9. Michael Palazzone
10. Jason Knapp
11. Daniel Webb
12. Tyler Sample
13. Sonny Gray
14. Trey Haley
15. Tyler Chatwood

Elite athleticism and evidence of a plus or potential plus breaking ball were big-time considerations in making up this list. The highest pick of the group was Ethan Martin (15th overall). The lowest pick of the group was Sonny Gray (821st overall). There were 2 first rounders, 1 supplemental first rounder, 3 second rounders, 1 supplemental second rounder, 1 third rounder, 1 supplemental third rounder, 2 fourth rounders, 1 twelfth rounder, 1 eighteenth rounder, 1 twentieth rounder, and 1 twenty-seventh rounder.

Martin and Cole were first rounders. Odorizzi was a supplemental first rounder. Chatwood, Haley, and Knapp were second rounders. Spruill was a supplemental second rounder. Sample was a third rounder. Seaton was a supplemental third rounder. Wieland and Melville were 4th rounders. Webb was a 12th rounder. Palazzone was an 18th rounder. Alex Meyer was a 20th rounder, and Sonny Gray was a 27th rounder.

Quick Observations: 9/15 went in the first three rounds, 6/15 fell far further than talent dictated due to signability concerns (Cole, Melville, Webb, Palazzone, Meyer, and Gray – all but Melville went the college/junior college route), and twelfth is a very weird looking word in print…

2008 Prep Righthanded Pitchers Picked in the First Five Rounds (Players Not in My Top 15)

Jordan Lyles
Seth Lintz
Kevin Eichorn
Jonathan Pettibone
Curtis Petersen
Tyler Cline
Trevor May
Maverick Lasker

Lyles went in the supplemental first round. Lintz went in the second round. Eichorn went in the third. Pettibone went in the third round (supplemental). Petersen, Cline, and May went in the fourth round. Lasker went in the fifth.

My Island Players – the players nobody, including many scouting directors, seemed to like nearly as much as I did

Ryan O’Sullivan
Jordan Cooper
Austin Dicharry
Kyle Winkler
Matt Magill

O’Sullivan wasn’t entirely unloved, he was a 10th round pick. Cooper, Winkler, and Magill had various degrees of success on draft day – they went in the 17th, 37th, and 31st rounds, respectively. Dicharry went undrafted and is now a freshman on the Texas pitching staff.

Note: the island player list isn’t the BS list you’ll see in other places. I mean, come on – “I had [consensus top five round talent] as my big sleeper!” isn’t really going out on that big a limb, you know? It’s good to have favorite guys like that, but you need to admit that they aren’t exactly the deepest of sleepers to anybody who regularly follows this stuff. So much of prospecting (the business side of it, that is) is about exploiting casual fans that don’t regularly follow the dregs of baseball (minors and draft) by sensationalizing the idea of “under the radar” players. I promise to stay away from that here, but, if I slip up, please please please call me out on it.

Stacking up the ’09’s with the ’08’s

Here was our top 15 2009’s: Shelby Miller, Jacob Turner, Mychal Givens, Zack Wheeler, Scott Griggs, Keyvius Sampson, Brooks Pounders, Daniel Tuttle, Mark Appel, Matt Graham, Michael Heller, Brody Colvin, Chris Jenkins, Ethan Carter, Jordan Cooper

The top 15 2008’s were listed above. So, if we had to put the lists together and rank them as if they were one great big giant class, who would go where? A very rough guess might look something like this (2009’s in bold):

1. Ethan Martin
2. Alex Meyer
3. Shelby Miller
4. Gerrit Cole
5. Ross Seaton
6. Jake Odorizzi
7. Zeke Spruill
8. Tim Melville
9. Jacob Turner
10. Mychal Givens
11. Zack Wheeler
12. Scott Griggs
13. Keyvius Sampson
14. Brooks Pounders

15. Kyle Wieland
16. Michael Palazzone
17. Jason Knapp
18. Daniel Webb
19. Tyler Sample
20. Sonny Gray

Only 7 of the top 20 from the combined list are 2009’s. This blows my theory that the 2009 class looks stronger (at this point) right on out of the water. I won’t lie – part of the reason I wanted to compare the two classes was to “prove” that the 2009 class was superior. Seeing the list above really brings the following point home: coming to a conclusion and then working backwards to prove it is a bad, bad idea. The list also illuminates the absurdity of ranking high school pitchers so early in the process. One of the reasons I think there are more 2008’s on the list is simple – there’s more data to judge them on, and thus less fear of the unknown. Matt Graham, Chris Jenkins, Ethan Carter…those guys could shoot up the list with big springs, much like some of the guys in 2008 did before them.