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2013 MLB Draft Preview: Purdue Boilermakers

Most Intriguing Pre-Season 2013 MLB Draft Prospect(s)

1. rJR RHP Brad Schreiber
2. JR OF Stephen Talbott
3. JR C/1B Sean McHugh

Last year’s postseason run was a magical one for Purdue, so it should come as no shock to fans of the program that 2013 is set up as a “nowhere to go but down” kind of season. There is little doubt that times will be tough in the Boilermaker lineup, at least initially. Of the nine qualified batters listed on Purdue’s College Splits page, only two return in 2013. That includes nobody in the top four (sorted by wOBA): JR OF Stephen Talbott is fifth, SR 1B Angelo Cianfrocco ninth. Only two of the seven qualified pitchers (sorted by innings) return: rSR RHP Robert Ramer (fourth) and SO RHP Connor Podkul (fifth). Last year’s banner crop of hitters – Kevin Plawecki, Cameron Perkins, and Eric Charles – must be replaced, as will a number of solid arms off the pitching staff.

One notable exception to the returning pitchers note is rJR RHP Brad Schreiber, who, due to injury, isn’t included as a returning player but arguably has the greatest pro upside as any pitcher who did throw for Purdue in 2012. The strapping righthander’s return from the last year’s Tommy John surgery that wiped out his entire junior season will be interesting to watch for a few reasons.

It is widely accepted that command takes longer than velocity to come back after a procedure on the elbow. That bit of information is part of what makes Schreiber’s return so fascinating. The Boilermaker’s potential 2013 ace was never known for his command before the injury, so could it be that his return to full form will be an ever greater challenge? A more positive, and more likely, take would simply be you can’t long for what you’ve never known. Command was never what made Schreiber a prospect, so a lack of it due to the operation can’t be held too harshly against him, right? It’s a theory, at least. At his best, Schreiber relies on fastball after fastball after fastball, often without knowing quite sure each pitch is heading. His pre-injury peak velocities (94-96) jibe with his back of the bullpen profile, but what makes his heater really stand out is the explosive movement he gets on it. His is a fastball that may actually have too much movement for his own good at times. Better command and a more reliable breaking ball would help him shoot up boards.

Outside of Schreiber, there’s not a lot to currently love about future Boilermakers’ draft prospects. Admittedly, this is at least in part to the huge unknown that is the composition of this upcoming year’s team. I like Stephen Talbott as a speedy, high-contact organizational outfielder, and strong JR C/1B Sean McHugh has shown enough promise in the eyes of the Purdue coaching staff to assume the job of Plawecki’s successor behind the plate. Robert Ramer is probably the next best arm after Schreiber, but his game is built more on outstanding control – his 0.36 BB/9 in 50.1 IP last year has been the best I’ve noticed so far – than pro-caliber stuff. The betting man in me would probably only put my hard earned cash on Schreiber being drafted this year, with Talbott the next most likely name down the line and McHugh a close third.

I don’t mean to be all gloom and doom about Purdue’s prospects’ prospects going forward. I’m far from a college baseball expert, but it doesn’t take a well-compensated insider to see how good a job that Doug Schreiber has done turning around the program. Once game action begins I have little doubt that we’ll see some worthwhile names begin to pop up among the freshman and sophomore classes, and I wouldn’t completely rule out a “coached-up” existing upperclassman emerging from the current roster. There’s also the possibility that one of Purdue’s incoming junior college players – Conner Hudnall, perhaps – will prove himself draftable in the next few months.

2014 MLB Draft Name(s) to Know

1. FR LHP Jordan Minch
2. SO RHP Connor Podkul

The top returning prospect to watch for in 2014 is probably Connor Podkul, a righthander with good size (6-4, 200), good breaking stuff, and a steady freshman season under his belt. Getting incoming freshman LHP Jordan Minch, last year’s 298th best prospect according to the fool in charge of this site, is quite the coup for the Purdue program. He’ll be draft-eligible again in two years, so the pressure will be on to see if he can hone his three potential above-average pitches (upper-80s FB, mid-70s CB, and low-70s CU) in short order. I don’t know what Purdue has planned for the young lefty, but his advanced pitchability and superior command, to say nothing of his already solid stuff for a lefthanded pitcher, seem well-suited for the college game. With holes littering the Boilermakers pitching staff, I see no reason why he shouldn’t get opportunities to pitch from February on. The ability to convince a player of Minch’s caliber to turn down pro ball and come to West Lafayette is just one of many indicators that make it clear that Coach Schreiber has this program in excellent hands.