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Pitch Counts

No, this won’t be another rant about the responsibility (or lack thereof) that college coaches have towards balancing saving their own hides by pleasing the alumni base by winning as many ballgames as possible in the short-term with respecting the overall health and potential loss of future professional earnings of student-athletes supposedly under their care. (Man, how’s that for a run-on sentence? My high school English teacher must be rolling in her grave…). Nor will it be a treatise on how often evidence showing high pitch counts (especially pitch counts over 120) as dangerous to a pitcher’s long-term health and short-term performance is ignored by a certain segment of the population, a group that still believes in the infallibility of many of the arm shredding techniques of yesteryear. (Not only a run-on sentence, but also awkwardly worded…I’m on a roll!). No, none of that – not today, anyway.

All I’m trying to say is that high pitch counts absolutely have to be considered when teams stack their draft boards each year. Nothing more, nothing less. To that end, let’s take a quick look after the jump at a few of the big names stretched beyond a “safe” number of pitches this past weekend…

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College Righthanded Starting Pitching Prospects – Comparing 2008 to 2009

If semi-incoherent ramblings about a very specific and unimportant topic with no readily apparent conclusion or point is what gets you going, be prepared to start your week off with something special. If not, congratulations – you’re normal. I’ve got a hunch that anybody out there willing to read some dummy’s baseball draft website probably isn’t “normal” anyway (and I say that with nothing but love), so why not just give in and see where our aimless thoughts will lead us today…

The top 15 righthanded starting pitching prospects as listed on this site, in descending order:

Jeff Inman, David Hale, Jake Cowan, Sean Black, Sam Dyson
Alex Wilson, Kyle Heckathorn, Mike Nesseth, Kendal Volz, Mike Leake
Aaron Crow, Tanner Scheppers, Kyle Gibson, Alex White
Stephen Strasburg

An updated list might look a little something like this:

Strasburg
Gibson/White/Crow
Leake/Scheppers
Dyson/Wilson/Berry
Volz
Nesseth/Heckathorn/Black/Cowan/Hale
Inman

The tiers align with the first round board tiers from last week, with the exception of Dyson rising up to join Wilson and Berry. Volz and Inman are especially difficult players to place, so they got their own private tiers – it’s the perfect solution for a lazy writer like me, really. Nesseth, Heckathorn, Black, Cowan, and Hale are all players that are personal favorites from my initial top 15, but have such mixed opinions that I’m lost on where to slot them in. I guess what I think is most important to take away from the bottom three tiers is that Volz is a clear step above the Nesseth/Heckathorn/Black/Cowan/Hale group (in the eyes of scouts) and Inman has dropped enough that he is clearly below the group (in my eyes). Further complicating the matter is Nesseth’s switch back to the Nebraska bullpen, but I’ll leave him in with this group for now because I still think his stuff works as a starter professionally.

Players considered for the list, but left off for now include Blake Smith (Cal), Scott Bittle (Mississippi), Jorge Reyes (Oregon State), AJ Griffin (San Diego), and Brad Stillings (Kent State). Smith’s status as a two-way player vexes me, Bittle’s stuff may actually work better as a starter/swingman in the long run, and Griffin is a gigantic personal favorite that will see his stock fly up my own personal rankings when I do my next revisions.

Notable players still missing from the list are the righty college relievers – Ben Tootle (Jacksonville State), Jason Stoffel (Arizona), Brad Boxberger (Southern Cal), and Brian Pearl (Washington) all profile best as relievers. Perhaps I can be convinced otherwise (Boxberger and Pearl might have stuff that would translate; Tootle and Stoffel are much better fits in the pen), but for now all four would strictly be drafted as relievers if I was running the show.

*****

For my money, the 2009 college righthanded pitching class absolutely trounces the 2008 class in terms of both quality and depth. However, the comparison between the two years is a tricky one to make because, and I really believe it’s as simple as this, the 2008 pitching class was an extremely weird one. The proponderence of college relievers made it an unusual draft at the time, but it’s gotten even weirder as we begin to see the long-term plans some of the big league teams have for their drafted relievers. Andrew Cashner, Joshua Fields, Ryan Perry, and Carlos Gutierrez were all college closers drafted in the first round. Of the four, it appears that only Fields and Perry are totally locked into their roles as professional relievers; Cashner and Gutierrez both may have the stuff to work better as pro starters. How do we then judge this class of pitching prospects? Are all four labeled as relievers? Does their eventual professional position carry more weight than their college position? How do we reconcile the fact that we don’t actually know the eventual landing spot of players like Cashner, Gutierrez, or Brad Holt? They may be given every shot imaginable to start, yet may work best as relievers in the long run. To simplify my life, I’m only going to evaluate players that were clearly scouted and drafted as starting pitchers.

The 2008 class was also a weird one because of the huge numbers of very talented players who slid down the board into the mid-rounds. These players were all almost cut from the exact same cloth – gigantic frames, big fastballs, questionable control and collegiate performance, and an inability to stay healthy. For this reason, it is my belief that this comparison would have been more enlightening if done with a pre-draft ranking of the available talent. Players like Chris Carpenter, Scott Green, Brett Hunter, Erik Davis, and Luke Burnett, to name a few, may have ranked higher on such a list. Kyle Heckathorn and Mike Nesseth, be forewarned.

2008 Top 15 College Righthanded Pitchers (7 college relievers, denoted with *)

Aaron Crow, Andrew Cashner*, Joshua Fields*, Ryan Perry*, Carlos Gutierrez*, Shooter Hunt, Brad Holt, Lance Lynn, Bryan Price*, Tanner Scheppers, Tyson Ross, Josh Lindblom*, Cody Adams, Aaron Shafer, Cody Satterwhite*

To this point, Cashner, Lindblom, and Price have all been tried as starters; Gutierrez and Satterwhite have so far only pitched out of the pen. I should also note that I was inconsistent in the way I included unsigned players (by memory, I think I only left out Scott Bittle), but I felt that excluding Crow and Scheppers would only create an unfair representation of the 2008 draft’s true talent level.

2008 Top 15 College Righthanded Starting Pitchers

Aaron Crow, Shooter Hunt, Brad Holt, Lance Lynn, Tanner Scheppers, Tyson Ross, Cody Adams, Aaron Shafer, Stephen Fife, Bobby Lanigan, Drew Liebel, Chris Carpenter, Aaron Pribanic, Scott Green, Vance Worley

Of that group, Holt, Fife, and Green may be future relievers, but all three were drafted as starters. College relievers excluded from this list, in addition to the names in the previous group, were Bryan Shaw, Zach Stewart, and Craig Kimbrel.

After all that, we’re left with comparing the following two pools of players. In one corner, we have the 2008’s:

Aaron Crow
Shooter Hunt
Brad Holt
Lance Lynn
Tanner Scheppers
Tyson Ross
Cody Adams
Aaron Shafer
Stephen Fife
Bobby Lanigan
Drew Liebel
Chris Carpenter
Aaron Pribanic
Scott Green
Vance Worley

Their challenger, the 2009’s (don’t read too much into the exact order, I just threw it together quickly):
Stephen Strasburg
Kyle Gibson
Alex White
Aaron Crow
Mike Leake
Tanner Scheppers
Sam Dyson
Alex Wilson
Ryan Berry
Kendal Volz
Mike Nesseth
Kyle Heckathorn
Sean Black
Jake Cowan
David Hale

Crow was king in 2008, but will slot in anywhere between second and fourth this year. Hunt is a quality arm and was a real steal to go as late as he did, but he isn’t in the same prospect class as Gibson, White, Leake, or a healthy Scheppers. I like Dyson, tentatively slotted 7th on the 2009 list, better than I do any of the 2008’s save Crow. If I had to do an overall ranking

Strasburg/Gibson/White/Crow/Leake/Scheppers/Dyson/Hunt/Wilson/Berry/Holt/Volz…and then things get especially murky. From that point on, however, the list would be more about trying to figure out where exactly to squeeze in the 09’s (namely Heckathorn, Hale, and Nesseth) than finding spots for the 08’s (as much as I like guys like Ross and Worley, I’m not sure I could put them over a Black or a Cowan with confidence). There are plenty of slightly later round picks from 2008 (Ethan Hollingsworth, Dan Hudson, Colby Shreve, DJ Mitchell, Michael Stutes) that would also muddle up the picture of what my pre-draft top 15 would look like, but I’ll stubbornly stick with judging the top ranked players from past years based on draft order for now. A comparison between the 2009’s and 2010’s will be better next season because I can compare and contrast my own pre-draft rankings, lists that hopefully give a better idea of talent-level than draft order (which is often skewed by signability and simple team preference).

If you were to include the college relievers from the 2008 class, the overall talent gap would close. Lindblom and Cashner were both players viewed as strong candidates to be switched to the rotation, so if we pretended they were drafted as such, they would compare favorably with Dyson and Wilson as starting pitching prospects. Come to think of it, I wonder if there is a comp to be made between Lindblom and Dyson. That might be worth looking into…but now I’m merely thinking out loud, a sure sign it’s time to wrap this up.

In conclusion…wait, I have no real conclusion. Hmm. In conclusion, 2009 looks like a better year for top end college righthanded starting pitching, but when the 09’s are headed up by Stephen Strasburg and three other potential top ten picks, that’s hardly much of a conclusion at all. I’m willing to concede that the depth between the two classes is pretty close in talent-level, but I’d still give the edge to 2009…though there is still plenty of time left between now and June to sort out who constitutes the “depth” of which we speak of in the 2009 Draft. My real conclusion is actually 100% unrelated to college righthanded pitching prospects. I thought of a pretty good comp for a potential top ten pick the other day, but I’m not all the way there with it just yet, if you know what I mean. It’s not quite a fully developed idea, but I’ll just throw it out there here so I can have it on the record…Grant Green (Southern Cal, SS) and Jason Donald (Arizona, Phillies, SS/3B/2B). Am I crazy in thinking they have similar enough profiles to compare the two?

2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers

It’s April now. The weather is slowly getting warmer here in the northeast (finally), Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is just days away (finally), and the Rule 4 Draft’s first round is slowly beginning to take shape. I’ve been lax in publishing any of my macro draft projections, but it seems like as good a time as any to put this first look at the first round out there for all the world to see. And for those of you that only visit these parts for the mocks — something I do for plenty of NFL and NBA sites, so believe me when I say I’m passing no judgment — consider this a precursor to the eventual April mock draft (coming soon!) and, who knows, maybe a helpful resource to aid in putting together a mock of your own.

There are 32 picks in this year’s first round. How many of those spots are currently accounted for? How many are still up for grabs? Which players are most likely to land the last few spots in the round and which players are such stone cold mortal locks that they can feel safe putting down payments on a whole bunch of fancy new toys? Any player with a chance of going in the first round in June has been broken down into a distinct tier. The tiers are far from perfect (maybe a player is in Tier 4, but should be in Tier 5), but they serve as realistic classifications of where players are currently valued by big league clubs.

  • Tier 1 —> 1 player

RHSP Stephen Strasburg

This guy is so far and away the best prospect in this draft that he gets his own tier…but you knew that already.

Confidence Level —> Couldn’t be higher

  • Tier 2 —> 10 players

College: OF/1B Dustin Ackley, RHSP Kyle Gibson, RHSP Aaron Crow, RHSP Alex White, SS Grant Green
Prep: RHSP Shelby Miller, LHSP Tyler Matzek, LHSP Matt Purke, LHSP Tyler Skaggs, OF Donovan Tate

The only tier split up into distinct college and prep sides, Tier 2 includes 10 players that are “write it down in that super never disappearing pen that S. Epatha Merkerson advertises for” kind of locks for the first round. Seattle has to be hoping against hope that one of these players will separate himself from the group because, at this point anyway, you could make a legitimate argument for literally any of the players on the list going to the Mariners at pick number two. I’d love to hear the arguments in favor of any of the prep pitchers going that high (none of the four players are quite talented enough to warrant taking a chance on that high, I think), but the other 6 players all could conceivably wind up in the Pacific Northwest.

Confidence Level —> Bet more than you have on any odds that these players will be first rounders

  • Tier 3 —> 5 players

RHSP Mike Leake, RHSP Tanner Scheppers, C Luke Bailey, C Austin Maddox, 1B Rich Poythress

These players just barely missed the previous tier, so know that if I was a bolder prognosticator I would have had them in that group without reservation. Of course, there are reasons why each player doesn’t get the Uniball pen Youtube video of approval. Leake may be my favorite prospect in all the draft, but I’m not sure how much my opinion matters to teams drafting in the first round…yes, he’s a very good prospect and an almost sure-fire first rounder, but I don’t want my inflated opinion of him getting in the way of properly assessing his relative value. Same story for Scheppers, another personal favorite.

Bailey and Maddox are hard to place on a draft board because, well, they are high school catchers. In a typical year it’s hard to figure out how early teams are willing to take a chance on a prep backstop, but it’s even wilder this year because of the excess of quality high school catchers expected to be taken early. Poythress is another player tricky to place, but for the opposite reasons. He is an established college first baseman, a position with an absurdly high success rate when taken early in the draft. However, this year’s draft is so devoid of quality bats (especially advanced bats) that it is hard to narrow down exactly what range he’ll go in – will teams overdraft a hitter knowing they are less likely to find a good one later? Or will teams instead focus on the strength of the draft — pitching, pitching, and more pitching — and go best player available, thus pushing hitters down the board?

Concerns aside, these players are still top-level prospects who should feel confident enough in their draft stock to begin daydreaming about their big first round pay days ahead.

Confidence Level —> As high as it gets without being a stone cold lock

  • Tier 4 —> 8 players

LHSP James Paxton, LHSP Mike Minor, SS DJ LeMahieu, OF Jared Mitchell, OF Kentrail Davis, RHSP Trent Stevenson, RHSP Zack Wheeler, RHSP Jacob Turner

Much like the group prior, these latest 8 prospects should feel really good about getting the chance to hear their names called on draft day. We’re up to 24 overall players through 4 tiers with definite consensus first round grades at this point in the process. The biggest reaches on this group are the two fastest risers of the bunch – Paxton and Stevenson.

Confidence Level —> Beginning to waver slightly, but still feeling good about 7 of the 8 players listed winding up as first rounders…which player or two (or three) doesn’t make the cut is anybody’s guess

  • Tier 5 —> 6 players

RHSP Alex Wilson, RHSP Ryan Berry, LHSP Andy Oliver, OF Brett Jackson, RHRP Jason Stoffel, RHSP Matt Hobgood

With the inclusion of Tier 5, our grand total of potential first rounders is now up to a nice, round 30. There are 32 first round spots up for grabs this year. Of note, Wilson and Berry are both Texas-based college guys that have risen in tandem up the boards this spring, Oliver has seen a dip in his stock but could still easily be a tier or two higher (I’m doing my best to be conservative here), and Stoffel is another hard to judge player based on the position he plays.

Confidence Level —> Nobody predicts who will go in the first round over two months ahead of time, so confidence is low that these are the right names. However, and remember this is me going out on a limb (something I’m too big a pun to normally do), at least three of the five college guys will be first rounders. Bold, right?

  • The Rest…

3B/OF Matt Davidson, 3B Bobby Borchering, C Max Stassi, SS Jiovanni Mier, OF/2B AJ Pollock, OF Brian Goodwin, RHSP Kendal Volz, RHSP Sam Dyson, LHSP Brooks Raley, SS Robbie Shields, SS Ryan Jackson, RHSP Mychal Givens, RHRP Brad Boxberger, C Josh Phegley, C Tony Sanchez, RHSP Keyvius Sampson

16 other names in the mix as potential first rounders bringing our final tally to 46 players duking it out for 32 spots. If I had to bet, I’d say Borchering and Mier wind up as first rounders based little more on the fact that a) the first round needs more high schoolers, and b) the first round needs more hitters, especially if said hitters can defend at important infield positions.

Who am I missing? Who do I have that won’t wind up a first rounder come June?

2009 MLB Draft: College Big Board Report Cards

Things have been quiet around here lately, but for good reason…it’s report card season! Yes, I do have a day job that may keep me updating from time to time, and, yes, filling out report card after report card takes priority over draft coverage – sad, but true. However, with all that grading in the books, it’s time to move on. What better way to celebrate than by doing some more grading!

In case you’ve been busy like me and haven’t kept up with some of the top college prospects, below the jump is a look back at our earlier College Big Board 1.0 (just the top 25 this time) with grades based on their performance through the first three weeks of the college baseball season. (more…)

2009 MLB Draft: Top 15 College Righthanded Pitchers (10-6)

And we’re back. We started the countdown of the top 15 draft-eligible righthanded college pitchers yesterday with 15 through 11. One thing I forgot to mention when players 15-11 were unveiled yesterday was that the list is restricted only to righthanded college starting pitching prospects – it’s a no reliever zone here. The bullpen guys will get their own special ranking at a later date. The top 10 through 6 draft-eligible college righthanded starting pitching prospects right after a very special picture. See, the young woman pictured below isn’t just making an appearance because showing pretty girls is an easy way to increase traffic; no, I’m far too classy a gent to stoop to that level. She is actually the significant other of the player used as a comparison to the sixth ranked player on the list. Hmm…

Photo Credit: DramaWiki

Photo Credit: DramaWiki

10 through 6 after the jump… (more…)

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…)

2009 College Baseball Opening Night – A Pitching Retrospective

A look back on the pitching highlights from college baseball’s opening night. It’s not a comprehensive look back, it’s not an ultra-scouty look back, it’s not even an analytical look back. It’s just a quick and dirty review of how an assorted sampling of some of the very best arms in college baseball performed on Friday, February 20th. Before we get to all the recappy goodness, how about a recap of not how baseball players actually played, but of the work some dorky draft website did?

Who among us can resist the allure of the Big Board? The Top 50 College Draft-Eligibles are HERE, HERE, HERE!

How about a look at teams comprised of the best players from each college class, including the most mysterious and overlooked group of them all? The best college players available in 2010 and 2011 were also given the corny “All _____ Team treatment. We couldn’t ignore the men already caught behind the age relative to league minor league eightball, could we? Wouldn’t dare dream of it. Lastly, why not make yourself familiar with players who are actually relevant to this upcoming year’s upcoming draft by reading about the country’s best draft-eligible sophomores (sans middle infielders)…

I promise I won’t keep linking to myself like that. It’s tacky, I know. It’s just that the site is new, readership is slowly coming along and I don’t want anybody left behind, and, well, I’m trying to trick people into reading something other than just the mock draft. I’m not knocking the mock, heck I love it too, but the disproportionate amount of traffic it gets just cracks me up. Enough complaining, let’s get on with the show.

Onward and upward we go, spinning fast and furiously along the college opening night pitching performance review carousel…

Cream of the Crop

Stephen Strasburg (San Diego State): 5.2 IP 3 H 0 ER 2 BB 11 K 4 GO 1 AO 1 LO, 105 pitches
Alex White (North Carolina): 5 IP 8 H 3 ER 1 BB 9 K 5 GO 1 AO 90 pitches
Kyle Gibson (Missouri): 6 IP 3 H 0 ER 3 BB 6 K 6 GO 3 AO 1 LO
Mike Minor (Vanderbilt): 5.2 IP 5 H 2 ER 2 BB 6 K 3 GO 7 AO 1 LO
Kendal Volz (Baylor): 6 IP 2 H 1 ER 2 BB 5 K 9 GO 2 AO

Some really super awesome highly reputable website has these players respectively ranked 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 13th in their draft class, so, yeah, you know they are good. I’m not really sure what I can add to numbers that speak so darn well for themselves. Five pitchers, five good to very good pitching performances, five first rounders and millionaires come June. Yawn. Let’s just talk about Strasburg instead of going into all the nitty gritty details of the other quality starts of the quartet of college stars.

The Daily Aztec had an interesting look at the high school career and subsequent recruitment of the San Diego State ace. I’m not sure what kind of dough Rusty Filter is making, but now might be a good time to ask for a raise. The San Diego Union-Tribune has some pretty cool Strasburg related notes in a recent article, including some pretty weird quotes from an anonymous Phillies scout (“He’s definitely a two-pitch pitcher”…I think it’s meant as a compliment, but I hope the scout realizes he isn’t just a two-pitch pitcher, you know?) and a old flat out admission that I must have missed initially from Jim Bowden that Strasburg will be a National pending something terrible happening. Last but certainly not least, Rich Lederer was actually at the game and offered up this first-hand report of what ole Strasburg looked like on opening day. If you aren’t the type to typically click on a link (like me), I suggest changing your tune and following that one, if you have any interest in the best college player in the country anyway.

You know what I just realized? Every time I try to type out Strasburg’s name, every single time, I make the same typo. Stephen Starsburg. My fingers won’t let me type it any other way without really, really concentrating. I wonder if my hands know know something my fingers don’t…

(In the effort of full disclosure, in the first typing of the paragraph above I inverted letters in both the words “hands” and “know.” So, maybe it’s not a sign of wonderful things to follow for young Strasburg. Maybe it’s just as simple as me being a poor typist…)

Starter or Reliever?

Louis Coleman (LSU): 5 IP 2 H 2 BB 8 K 2 GO 4 AO 74 pitches
Ryan Berry (Rice): 4.2 IP 4 H 5 ER 5 BB 3 K 6 GO 3 AO 1 LO
Preston Guilmet (Arizona): 4 IP 5 H 0 ER 2 BB 6 K 3 GO 2 AO
Brad Boxberger (Southern Cal): 6 IP 1 H 0 ER 6 BB 11 K 2 GO 2 AO 120 pitches

As you can probably ascertain from their lines, all four of the young men listed above started the first game of the season for their respective college teams. Reports have Boxberger’s velocity falling off quickly after the first inning (and again after the second inning), a trend that jives well with his scouting reports heading into the season. While it’s almost always a good thing to exhaust every avenue, boulevard, and throughway that leads to a pitcher starting rather than relieving, you’ve got to wonder if it’s the right thing for a college coach to have a pitcher with professional aspirations tied to potentially being an elite reliever someday throwing 120 pitches in a game. Who am I kidding? You don’t even have to wonder. It’s bad. Research shows us this. Even if you are on the side of the debate that says pitchers are babied and pitch counts are overrated, come on – 120 pitches in the first game of the season? What’s the point? The fact that Boxberger is looked at as a potential reliever by scouts is just icing on the shortsighted, irresponsible cake. If you as a manager can help it, no pitcher should throw 120+ pitches in a single game ever, let alone on February 20th, right? It’s not good for the player and, if you stop and think for a second, it’s not good for the team, either. Is squeezing one extra inning (or two) out of a starting pitcher in a non-conference game so early in the season worth the potential damage an injury or even fatigue could have on the ballclub? Maybe there is more to the story that I simply don’t know, but from where I’m sitting Chad Kreuter has some answering to do.

Phew, I feel a bit better now. As for the other guys, both Berry and Guilmet are no doubt about it college starters who may be converted to relief as professionals. Louis Coleman is an interesting case because he may actually have just good enough stuff to survive professionally as a swingman/special usage long reliever if he shows he can start for LSU. That’s arguably an upgrade over simply topping out as a generic middle reliever, depending on your own personal philosophy on bullpen usage.

Draft-Eligible Youngsters (Sophomores)

Brooks Raley (Texas A&M): 6 IP 5 H 1 ER 1 BB 6 K 3 GO 7 AO 1 LO 79 pitches
Jeff Inman (Stanford): 7 IP 9 H 5 ER 1 BB 3 K 12 GO 4 AO

Hard not to be impressed by Raley’s debut effort, all the way down to the efficient way he went about his business. Inman’s numbers aren’t nearly as pretty, but the strong groundballing start is promising. The groundball numbers fit his scouting profile (strong sinker), but the lack of dominance (namely the poor K/IP rate) is something that needs a turn around this season if Inman wants to get into the first round – a spot in the draft that some think he can rise up to. I don’t buy Inman as a first rounder at all, so I’ll amend that last statement to say I personally he’ll need to show he can put hitters away in college if he wants to be a first three rounder this spring.

2010’s

Deck McGuire (Georgia Tech): 7 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 13 K 3 GO 4 AO
Chris Hernandez (Miami): 6 IP 3 H 1 ER 3 BB 7 K 11 GO 1 AO 95 pitches
Sammy Solis (San Diego): 6 IP 4 H 1 ER 0 BB 9 K 7 GO 1 AO

Let’s combine these lines real quick and take a moment to bask in all it’s young pitchery glory:

19 IP 10 H 2 ER 4 BB 29 K 21 GO 6 AO

That’s good for an ERA of 0.95, a K/9 of 13.74, and a GO/AO ratio of 3.5. Even that Strasburg guy would be jealous of numbers like that. Hernandez is a fascinating prospect (I say that about a lot of guys, don’t I?) in that he has put up tremendous results at Miami in his young career, but lacks traditionally dominating stuff. Perhaps the 11/1 groundball to flyball number is a bit of a clue to how he has been so successful. If I get the time/patience/energy, I’ll have to go through the Miami game logs from last year and see what his 2008 ratio looked like.

New on Campus

Austin Dicharry (Texas): 1 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 2 K 1 GO 0 AO
Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt): 3 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 3 K 5 GO 0 AO

Two pretty sharp collegiate debuts for two of the finest young righties the class of 2011 has to offer. Gray’s 3 innings out of the Vandy pen were especially good, as 8 of his 9 outs recorded were either grounders or strikeouts and his lone walk was an intentional one. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a college hitter getting the 1-2 punch of Mike Minor and Sonny Gray all in one afternoon. My head might literally explode. That may sound gross, but keep in mind I’d hopefully be wearing a helmet at the time, so much of the splatter would be contained. I’m not sure how talking about exploding head splatter is any less gross (or anyway related to baseball), so we’ll just quietly pretend I didn’t say that and move on. Oh, and while we are pretending we have to also pretend I don’t have a functional delete key, thus explaining why I decided to keep such a stupid couple of sentences rather than delete them. Make-believe is fun!

Real Deal College Relievers

Scott Bittle (Mississippi): 1 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 1 K 1 GO 1 AO
AJ Griffin (San Diego): 2.1 IP 2 H 0 ER 1 BB 4 K 2 GO 1 AO
Jason Stoffel (Arizona): 1 IP 3 H 1 ER 0 BB 2 K 0 GO 1 AO
Robert Stock (Southern Cal): 1 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 2 K 1 GO 0 AO 12 pitches

I probably should have this group directly after the “Starter or Reliever” group, but that would require many seconds of copying and pasting that I can ill afford to spend on something so tedious. You see, I’m far more important to be bothered with such foolishness. It’s a much better use of my time to wonder aloud (in print) “What the heck happened to Jason Stoffel on Friday?” I also need the extra seconds to spend time pontificating about the wonderful debut of Robert Stock. Consensus opinion may have turned on you, buddy, but I still think you’re a keeper. Not too many players can get on base three times (including 2 hits, one a double), throw out two runners trying to steal second, and pitch a perfect ninth inning throwing low-90s heat. All that and he’s still only 19? Sign me up.

Random Lefties For Whom I Could Think of No Other Clever Unifying Characteristic

Rob Rasmussen (UCLA): 5 IP 2 H 0 ER 1 BB 5 K 6 GO 3 AO 1 LO
Tanner Robles (Oregon State): 5 IP 3 H 3 ER 4 BB 2 K 7 GO 4 AO 1 LO
Nick Hernandez (Tennessee): 5 IP 9 H 3 ER 1 BB 5 K 4 GO 5 AO

A mixed bag, for sure, but since when are lefthanders anything but? Robles and Hernandez went head to head, with nary a player coming out ahead of the other. Is that the correct way to use “nary”? And I am supposed to put the question mark outside the quotation marks, right? I know a period goes inside, but I’m pretty sure I remember the question mark being an oddball. Not unlike our quirky group of lefties here, see? Ah, full circle. Love that symmetry.

2009 MLB Draft: College Big Board 1.0

1. Steven Strasburg (RHSP – San Diego State)

Alright, so far this is pretty easy…

2. Alex White (RHSP – North Carolina)
3. Grant Green (SS – Southern California)
4. Dustin Ackley (OF – North Carolina)
5. Kyle Gibson (RHSP – Missouri)

White is a confusing prospect. On one hand, he’s second on the board and, while Green may be very close behind him at number three, is a worthy candidate to go number two overall. On the other hand, if we pretended Strasburg wasn’t draft-eligible this year, would White as the number one pick in the country feel right? That may be a silly way of looking at it, but I can’t help it. Maybe it’s more about my personal hangup about what a number one overall pick should be. I like White a lot and genuinely believe he can front a big league rotation, but it would feel like a weak draft if he went number one overall. Ugh, that makes no sense. I’m just thinking out loud, disregard this paragraph…

6. Mike Minor (LHSP – Vanderbilt)
7. Tanner Scheppers (RHSP – Fresno State/St. Paul Saints)
8. Aaron Crow (RHSP – Missouri/Forth Worth Cats)
9. Andrew Oliver (LHSP – Oklahoma State)

Minor is a personal favorite and higher on this list than he’ll sure be on others – watching Cole Hamels every fifth day the last few years has turned me into a huge backer of lefties with plus changeups. Scheppers is also higher here than he’ll be on most rankings, but, remember, this ranking is based on the assumption of good health into the summer.

10. Josh Phegley (C – Indiana)
11. Mike Leake (RHSP – Arizona State)
12. James Jones (LHSP – Long Island)
13. Kendal Volz (RHSP – Baylor)
14. Mike Nesseth (RHSP – Nebraska)

Phegley as the third ranked college bat may seem a little strange, but his statistical profile is hard to ignore. He heads up an underrated group of college catchers that feature a surprisingly high number of players on the list – well, maybe it isn’t all that surprising, but it was surprising to me as I put the list together, whatever that’s worth. Leake over Volz is a little strange, but it came down to present plus command and movement over potential power plus stuff across the board.

15. Sean Black (RHSP – Seton Hall)
16. Jake Locker (OF – Washington)

Sometimes I have a hard time letting go. I know I previously admitted having Locker = poor man’s Grady Sizemore burned into my brain, but Sean Black this high could be just as egregious a selection. Black was a big prep prospect not too long ago who has failed to live up to the hype at Seton Hall. Loads of raw talent + more difficult playing conditions (subpar team, so-so conference, and colder weather) = potential sleeper prospect. Locker will fall down the list (and eventually off altogether) as other players emerge this spring, but I had to put him way up here as a nod to his prodigious talent.

17. Kentrail Davis (OF – Tennessee)
18. Robbie Shields (SS – Florida Southern)
19. Jared Mitchell (OF – Louisiana State)
20. Kyle Seager (2B – North Carolina)
21. Rich Poythress (1B – Georgia)

Counting Locker at 16th, that gives us sixth straight position players in a row. How about that? These five should all be big league starters if all goes according to plan, though only the two outfielders profile as potential all-stars.

22. Sam Dyson (RHSP – South Carolina)
23. Chris Dominguez (3B – Louisville)

All or nothing, here we come. Dyson’s arm is electric, but his injury history and control both need some cleaning up. Dominguez has his detractors, but two plus tools (arm and power) make him stand out in a weak college class for hitters. If he puts it all together this season, expect crazy power numbers out of Dominguez, especially in Big East play.

24. Ryan Ortiz (C – Oregon State)
25. DJ LeMahieu (SS – Louisiana State)
26. Trevor Coleman (C – Missouri)
27. Robert Stock (C – Southern California)
28. Ryan Jackson (SS – Miami)

Five spots, only two positions. Sorting out the college catchers and middle infielders is one of the trickier things to do in this class. Ortiz is an underrated player because his skillset is so broad. Players like this often get overlooked for not having one standout tool to suck scouts in. LeMahieu is a far better hitter than Jackson, but they are close in the overall rankings because Jackson’s defense is outstanding. Big league front offices realize the importance of quality defense now more than ever, so where Jackson falls on actual draft boards will make an interesting case study in just how focused teams are developing their own standout defenders through the draft. As I already wrote about in the mock draft, Stock = catching version of Sean Black. Of course, baseball is a weird game so there may be more to the story than that simple equation (I like equations, by the way…if you haven’t noticed. We might be able to claim that Stock = Black without the catching disclaimer if the Southern Cal product has a big season on the mound for the Trojans.

29. AJ Pollock (OF/2B – Notre Dame)
30. Jason Stoffel (RHRP – Arizona)
31. Bryan Morgado (LHSP – Tennessee)
32. Kyle Heckathorn (RHSP – Kennesaw State)

Pollock is a hard player to figure, but if the position switch to second base actually sticks, he’ll fly up draft boards this spring. He is a very good basestealer, has playable pop, and is difficult to strike out. Pollock is one of the few I haven’t seen play yet, so I’m just throwing this out there…what about Chone Figgins as a comp?

33. Ben Tootle (RHRP – Jacksonville State)
34. Shawn Tolleson (RHSP – Baylor)
35. Jake Cowan (RHSP – San Jacinto JC)
36. Blake Smith (OF/RHSP – California)

The first junior college player to make the list is a righty with a great frame, 95 MPH fastball, and three plus pitches. Cowan, the former Virginia recruit, will be in contention to be the first juco player picked in 2009.

37. Tyler Lyons (LHSP – Oklahoma State)
38. Jeff Inman (RHSP – Stanford)
39. Ryan Weber (RHSP – St. Petersburg JC)

Weber is the second junior college arm on the list, a fact worth noting because neither the aforementioned Jake Cowan or Weber is Daniel Webb. Webb, the consensus top junior college talent, failed to crack the top fifty. Blazing fastball or not, he was just too raw a prospect for our tastes.

40. Micah Gibbs (C – Louisiana State)
41. Matt Thomson (RHSP – San Diego)
42. Brad Boxberger (RHRP – Southern California)
43. Tommy Medica (C – Santa Clara)
44. Brad Stillings (RHSP – Kent State)
45. Steve Fischback (RHRP – Cal Poly)
46. Nick Hernandez (LHSP – Tennessee)
47. Gavin Brooks (LHSP – UCLA)
48. Jordan Henry (OF – Mississippi)
49. David Hale (RHSP – Princeton)
50. Ben Paulsen (1B – Clemson)

And that’s 50. Not a very inspiring last group, but, let’s be real, it’s not a very exciting year for high-end college talent. I think I picked the wrong year to start doing this…

Check back all weekend long for occasional updates on college baseball’s opening weekend.

2009 MLB Mock Draft 1.0

First, an apology. The Angels have picks 25 and 26 from the Mets and Yankees respectively, the Mariners have pick 28 from the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, and the Rockies have the Angels pick at 33, the last pick of the first round. This mock took a bit longer than anticipated to complete, so it still reads as if the original draft order stands. Subsequent versions will have the updated order and picks. Please accept my apology in the form of a 6,511 word mock draft written for an event four and a half months away. Full first round mock draft after the jump…

AP Photo

Photo Credit: AP Photo

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