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2009 MLB Draft Live Blog

5:45 PM

How ’bout them Pirates? Tony Sanchez at 4 is flat out insanity, sorry. I get that they are hoping to use some of their player development acquisition cash on the international scene, but it seems like a gigantic risk banking on being able to sign the guys they want on the free market like that. What if Miguel Sano backs out of their agreement and they somehow swing and miss on the other top international prospects? Risky, risky, risky.

I mentioned seeing Dustin Ackley more than any other player in the draft in one of the recent mocks, but Tony Sanchez and I go back almost as far. I probably saw Sanchez play about 30 games at BC and nothing about his game ever screamed front-line ML catcher to me. We’ll see.

I can’t be the only one stunned to see Matt Hobgood’s name connected with Baltimore at 5. I never would have guessed he would be the top prep arm off the bard in a billion years. Bizarre pick.

6:00 PM

Christmas in June. They are really holding the draft in Studio 42? What a hideous set. Jim Callis = Bob Saget. I formed that opinion based on a picture I saw long ago, so even when I see him on video like tonight and realize the comp is a stretch, I can’t get the Saget image out of my head.

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FINAL 2009 MLB Mock Draft 3.0

1.1 Washington: RHSP Stephen Strasburg – San Diego State

Do us a quick favor, will ya? See this franchise here? We need a little help, as I’m sure you know. If it’s not too much trouble, could you, if you’d be so kind, please save baseball in Washington? Simple enough, right? We just need you to sign without too much of a fuss (talk about a PR headache), avoid getting injured in the first few years of your deal (that would be such a buzzkill), and pitch well enough to live up to your reputation as the greatest amateur player of your generation (no pressure!). You’ll be compensated quite handsomely, of course, but terms will be discussed only on the condition of a minimum six-year commitment.

We can’t deny any of the negative press you’ve probably heard about us recently. Yes, it’s true that attendance is way down, our front office/ownership group is in disarray, and we don’t actually have any kind of on field plan in place (I personally love the 14 corner outfielder plan to begin the year), but things aren’t all bad in our nation’s capital. There are building blocks in the organization like Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, and Elijah Dukes, plus you’ll be joined by another top ten draft pick upon signing. We have a new park, a small but fervent fan base, and, really, who among us could possibly resist the temptation of all the chili half-smokes from Ben’s Chili Bowl you can handle? Think about it, Stephen. This is your chance to be the most talked about savior in DC since that other impossibly hyped guy who took charge back in January.

I think he signs for $18.88 million, by the way. Why $18.88 million? So glad you asked. $18.88 million because a) I think he signs for somewhere between $15 and $20 million, but probably closer to $20 million, and b) 8 is my favorite number. How’s that for sound logic? $18.88 million (or whatever the heck he winds up getting) is a relatively small price to pay for relevancy, big crowds every fifth day, and, oh yeah, a damn fine pitcher. He’ll sign, the price won’t be extraorbitant, and the only real concern for Washington will be making sure they spell his name right on the back of his jersey.

1.2 Seattle: CF Dustin Ackley – North Carolina

There is no potential high round pick that I’ve seen in person more often than North Carolina star CF/1B Dustin Ackley. I know what you’re thinking – congratulations, but, really, who cares? I’m not a scout, I’m not an expert, heck, I’m not really anybody worth listening to at all (now that’s a ringing endorsement for this site!). That said, if you are reading this then I’m going to have to assume you love/like/at least tolerate baseball on some level, so you’ll understand when I tell you that with some players…you just know. Watch Ackley swing a bat and you might just get the same feeling I got the first time I saw him swing a bat as a freshman at UNC. Here’s what I wrote about him heading into the season back from Mock Draft 1.0:

Ackley is one of my favorite players in this or any draft because, even though there are a lot of players that you can compare him to, in the end he is still, somehow, someway, a really unique prospect. What position will he play? Where will he fit best in a lineup? Will the power develop? How’s his arm holding up post-Tommy John surgery? How much of his prospect value is tied into the answers of these questions? Maybe his skillset isn’t all that unique (there are plenty of examples of high average, good plate discipline, questionable power bats in this draft), but he certainly offers a weird blend of talents for a guy expected to go so high.

Ackley was an excellent prospect heading into the season, but, as you can see, there were questions about his game that needed to be answered this spring. Let’s see how he did, shall we?

Q: What position will he play?

A: He’s a centerfielder until he proves otherwise. A legitimate case could be made for a pro transition to second base, something the coaching staff at UNC believes he could handle with relative ease. The worst case scenario defensively is that he’ll settle in at either an outfield corner or first base, but the team that drafts him can take comfort in the fact he’ll at least be a well above-average defender at any of the three spots in question.

Q: Where will he fit best in a lineup?

A: To answer this question, let’s examine my string of Ackley comps and see if a pattern develops. Now obviously I’m incredibly high on Ackley’s upside, so these player comps may be a little more optimistic than some seen elsewhere. I tried to use as many contemporary comps as I could, but the one “old-timer” I heard referenced by scouts in the stands down in Chapel Hill was Fred Lynn. I liked that one a lot, even though my knowledge of Fred Lynn is limited to box scores, highlight videos, and stories from those who actually watched him play. As for the more recent comps, feel free to try any of these out for a spin and see what you like: Paul O’Neill, Bobby Bonilla with more speed/patience, Brian Giles at his Age 28 to 31 power peak, Bobby Abreu minus some strikeouts, John Olerud with speed, Bernie Williams, Roberto Alomar, and, my personal favorite, Chase Utley. To finally get back to answering the question, he’ll hit third as a pro.

Q: Will the power develop?

A: He’s not currently. nor will he ever be, a prototypical power hitting slugger, but his compact yet emphatic line drive stroke, wiry strong build, and ability to consistently square up on all pitch types portend well above-average power numbers to come. There is also the matter of that 2009 slugging percentage (.781), a number even more impressive taken in context – Boshamer Stadium, Carolina’s newly renovated home, is a moderate pitchers park. Nobody will make the argument that college statistics have the kind of predictive value that minor league stats have, but at some point the results must be acknowledged as something worth talking about. For Ackley’s ultimate power upside, I think the Chase Utley comp works pretty darn well.

Q: How much of his prospect value is tied into the answers of these questions?

A: Ha, trick question! You can reword the question into this statement: Ackley’s prospect stock was directly tied to his defense, his power, and his health. To steal what is apparently a perpetually funny phrase from sixth graders everywhere, “NO DUH!” Of course his stock was tied to those things…every player in every year is evaluated similarly, right? The question isn’t worthless, however, when we consider potential negative “what-if” scenarios. What if Ackley was tied to first base going forward, but still had the monster 2009 offensively? Would he still be in the running for the second overall pick if he was strictly a first baseman? What if he was totally healthy and playing every day in CF, but put up a .417/.520/.571 line instead of his actual .417/.520/.781? Would the questions about his power scare teams off from taking him in the top five? Top ten? Who knows?

Here is what I do know, or at least thing I know: Dustin Ackley is a future .300/.400/.500 hitter capable of providing above-average defense at an up-the-middle defensive position. It stinks that Seattle missed out on Strasburg, but Ackley is a prospect worthy of the number two overall pick in this or any draft year.

1.3 San Diego: OF Donavan Tate – Cartersville HS (Georgia)

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a Padres fan right about now. The days leading up to such a pivotal draft should be tense but in a good, exciting way; it certainly should not be as stressful and panic attack inducing as it would appear to be for fans of the Pads. Maybe I take my own personal baseball fandom too far, but reports that the Padres may take Vanderbilt LHSP Mike Minor third overall would have me breathing into a paper bag if I was a fan of the team. Then again, if I was a Padres fan then chances are I would be a resident of San Diego. If that was the case, I’m not sure I’d be in a position to complain about too much.

With the top pitcher and hitter both off the board, the Padres will be faced with the challenge of sorting through a collection of two classic categories of player: high risk/high reward (Donavan Tate, Tyler Matzek, Kyle Gibson, and Zack Wheeler) and safe/signable (Aaron Crow and Mike Minor). It’ll be the job of Bill Gayton and his scouting staff to find the player that offers them the best blend of each category – reasonable upside, a high floor, and a sure bet to sign for the right price. That’s the hope, anyway. The reality could very well be that the safest route (an overdraft like Minor) is the path ownership forces upon the baseball side and it’s as simple as that. My worry about this pick is that it becomes less about the players involved and more about the unfortunate San Diego draft idealogy. Let’s take a closer look at the three most likely players involved and where they fit in with this idealogy.

If Tate is the pick, as I’m predicting in this version of the mock, then we’ll know who has one of the most influential scouting voices on the San Diego staff. Baseball Prospectus claims Padres VP of Scouting and Player Development Grady Fuson is lobbying hard for OF Donavan Tate, a report that has been verified by just about every other draft publication since. Tate’s upside is through the roof (I think the Carlos Beltran comp is a bit much, but a poor man’s version of Beltran is still pretty exciting) and the ability to spread his signing bonus out as a two-way athlete ought to be enough of an enticement for San Diego to get a deal hammered out.

In the past two weeks or so, the aforementioned Mike Minor has emerged as the hot signability pick that could become a reality if the Padres opt to draft on the cheap. If Minor is the guy, then you’d better believe the pick will get panned by pundits everywhere, but I don’t think it’s as big a talent stretch as some seem to believe. I’ve been hard on a potential Minor selection, but I want it to be clear that it would be more about what it would represent than the actual player being picked. No, Minor is not the third best prospect in this year’s class, but I still think he’s a first round talent that will be better as a professional than he was as an amateur.

If the Padres decide to go with Crow, the chain reaction will be a sight to behold. The Pirates have Crow at or near the top of their board, so they may be forced to go to their Plan B. Let’s say that Plan B includes one of the high profile high school arms (Tyler Matzek?). That wouldn’t sit well with either one of the next two drafting teams because Baltimore (another team that could have Matzek atop their board) and San Francisco (Matzek, Jacob Turner, and Zack Wheeler just to name a few) both are reportedly to be leaning heavily towards high school arms as well.

The rest of my final 2009 MLB Mock Draft after the jump… (more…)

2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers 3.0

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

Hey, this is pretty easy so far!

Tier 2 —> 14 players

CF Dustin Ackley/LHSP Tyler Matzek/RHSP Aaron Crow/RHSP Jacob Turner/RHSP Zack Wheeler/OF Donavan Tate

RHSP Tanner Scheppers/SS Grant Green/RHSP Shelby Miller/LHSP Matt Purke/RHSP Kyle Gibson/RHSP Alex White/RHSP Mike Leake/LHSP Rex Brothers

No big surprises in this group, I don’t think. Ackley, Matzek, and Wheeler seem like sure bets to go in the top ten. Gibson and White are two college righties who are seeing their stock slip heading into the big day, but for different reasons. Gibson has had very inconsistent velocity readings this spring (topping out at only 87 MPH in a recent start) and a number of high pitch count games worry scouting directors who may not want to pay big bucks for a jacked up elbow/shoulder (that last bit is totally unsubstantiated speculation, I haven’t read/heard any reliable source openly doubt Gibson’s current health). White’s issues are more performance based, as he hasn’t been the Friday ace that many expected to see this year for the Tar Heels. Both have clearly done enough to warrant high first round grades, but they aren’t necessarily the locks for the top ten like they once were.

Rumors have circulated that Purke could be the obligatory high bonus high schooler who drops down the board, but it would be a stunner to see him fall clear out of the first, if for no other reason than eventually one of the big budget teams would pull the trigger in the mid- to late-20s. Green is another player that many claim is sliding down boards, but his success with wood on the Cape will keep him in the top half of the round (at worst) when it is all said and done. Last, but certainly not least, Donavan Tate (yes, I’ve given in – I’m late to the party, I know, but I’m finally going with Donavan over Donovan…can we get one of those spelling bee kids to make a ruling?). Tate is about a 50/50 shot to go number three overall to the Padres next week, pretty good odds all things considered. However, if San Diego decides to pass, he is in danger of falling way down in the first based on how remaining teams figure to stack their respective boards.

Tier 2 is loaded with “star” quality amateur players – Ackley, Crow, Tate, Scheppers, and Green are just some of the names very familiar with even casual followers of high school and college baseball. The most obscure player on the list is easily the lefty from Lipscomb, Rex Brothers. Yeah, I know that Brothers has been talked about as a first rounder for a few months now, but he is still a name that looks a little funny grouped with the rest of these “star” guys. The high velocity lefty belongs.

Tier 3 —> 9 players

C Max Stassi/3B Bobby Borchering/RHSP Eric Arnett/LHSP Chad James/RHSP Matt Hobgood

OF Mike Trout/OF Everett Williams/LHSP Tyler Skaggs/C Tony Sanchez

The first two tiers are more about safety – in  a world with so few guarantees, I’d feel bad if any of the players on either list wasn’t a first rounder next week, so I played it safe and went with absolutely safe consensus first rounders only. Tier 3 is where things get complicated. I’d put the percentage on each individual player going in the first at around 75%. Going with the prep outfield duo of Trout and Williams over either of the top college guys (Tim Wheeler and AJ Pollock) is a little out there, I’ll admit, but each high school player has the raw tools teams covet late in the first. And with that, we have the theme of Tier 3 – high upside tools. 7 of the 9 players listed are high schoolers. Hobgood and James may or may not have legit first round talent (I think James probably does, but am personally not a huge fan of Hobgood), but they have been linked to enough teams picking in the mid-teens on that they seem likely to be off the board by the supplemental round. We may have been a tad premature in declaring Stassi a stone cold lock first rounder, but he still seems like a safe bet to get plucked by a team late in the first looking to capitalize on the fall of a player many consider to be the top draft-eligible catcher.

Tier 4 —> 4 players

RHRP Drew Storen/OF Tim Wheeler/LHSP James Paxton/C Wil Myers

Tier 4 has players that are safer bets to contribute in the bigs, but with a little less long-term star power. Storen should sneak into the back end of the first round, with Tampa rumored to have interest if he makes it to pick 30. Wheeler is another player that fits the Tier 4 prototype – no standout tool, but very well-rounded with a professional approach. Paxton’s fastball is one of the best in the draft, and Myers’ hit tool is as good as any high school position player.

28 players through 4 tiers. We need five more players to get to that magic first round number of 32. The Nationals seem heavily in on RHSP Chad Jenkins, but they could go in so many directions with that tenth pick that it’s hard to call him a lock of any kind. Washington is in the weird situation where the players they are choosing from with that second first rounder may not be first rounders at all unless they pick them. High school players like RHSP Garrett Gould, SS Jiovanni Mier, 3B Matt Davidson, and C Tommy Joseph could find spots at the back end of the first depending on how the board shakes out in front of them. Likewise, plenty of college talent (OFs AJ Pollock and Jared Mitchell, LHSPs Andy Oliver and Mike Minor, RHP Kyle Heckathorn, and 1B Rich Poythress) could hear their names called early next Tuesday as well.

Any names missing? Any player in a tier too high or too low? Does Strasburg deserve a one tier buffer between himself and everybody else?

2009 First Round Mock Draft 2.0

Another week, another mock. Let’s see what we see…

1.1 Washington – RHSP Stephen Strasburg (San Diego State)
1.2 Seattle – 1B/OF Dustin Ackley (North Carolina)
1.3 San Diego – RHSP Aaron Crow (Missouri/Fort Worth Cats)
1.4 Pittsburgh – RHSP Alex White (North Carolina)
1.5 Baltimore – SS Grant Green (Southern Cal)

I still have no idea which way Seattle is leaning with the second pick. Any one of Ackley, White, Tate, Matzek, or Scheppers could be the guy. Green’s stock is falling faster than [insert fast falling stock symbol here], but I still think it’s a tad reactionary to have him falling more than a few picks from the top considering the total absence of quality bats at premium positions in this year’s draft. Heck, I was one of Green’s biggest detractors heading into this season so if anybody could support a slip in his stock it’s me. About a month ago I said this:

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?

I like Grant Green and I like Jason Donald, but I’m not sold on either player being “worth” the fifth overall pick. However, and this is worth pointing out time and time again, the top of the draft has so few interesting bats that there is some justification for reaching for a potential plus bat at a key defensive position.

1.6 San Francisco – OF Donavan Tate (Cartersville HS – Georgia)
1.7 Atlanta – RHSP Zack Wheeler (East Paulding HS – Georgia)
1.8 Cincinnati – RHSP Kyle Gibson (Missouri)
1.9 Detroit Tigers – LHSP Tyler Matzek (Capistrano Valley HS – California)
1.10 Washington – RHSP Tanner Scheppers (Fresno State/St. Paul Saints)

How do you spell Tate’s first name? I’ve literally seen a 50/50 split (or darn close anyway) in the major publications when it comes to his spelling. Off the top of my head, I think Baseball America and Pefect Game both call him Donavan, but MLB.com claims he goes by Donovan. Even the great Google comes up empty – 824,000 hits for “Donovan Tate” and 870,000 “Donavan Tate” in a race too close to call.

I debated far too long about Atlanta’s pick, but there is too much noise about Atlanta loving Wheeler to go against the grain. Brian Sabean was at a recent Cartersville start to watch Wheeler throw, so it’s entirely possible he’ll be off the board at pick six. In a way that would be convenient because we can then just flip the Giants and Braves picks with little shaking up of the draft board.

Strasburg & Scheppers…that’ll do nicely. I like the Nationals popping Scheppers here because there is absolutely no chance he won’t sign a fair deal, he has no other options besides professional baseball. The question for me is whether or not he’ll be sitting there for them to debate the pick…

1.11 Colorado – RHSP Mike Leake (Arizona State)
1.12 Kansas City – RHSP Shelby Miller (Brownwood HS – Texas)
1.13 Oakland – 3B Bobby Borchering (Bishop Verot HS – Florida)
1.14 Texas – LHSP Matt Purke (Klein HS – Texas)
1.15 Cleveland – LHSP Mike Minor (Vanderbilt)

A prep superstar sandwich with delicious high floor (and high fiber!) college pitcher bread. The Royals and Rangers would both be ecstatic (I’m guessing) if the draft actually went like this, though I now wonder if the two Texan high schoolers might be flip flopped.

1.16 Arizona – LHP/OF Brooks Raley (Texas A&M)
1.17 Arizona – C Max Stassi (Yuba City HS – California)
1.18 Florida – LHP/1B Colton Cain (Waxahachie HS – Texas)
1.19 St. Louis – LHSP Andy Oliver (Oklahoma State)
1.20 Toronto – LHSP James Paxton (Kentucky)
1.21 Houston – LHSP Rex Brothers (Lipscomb)

How’s that for a run on lefthanded pitching? That’s 7 out of 8 lefties if you’re scoring at home, with the run only being broken up by the presence of new top 2009 catcher Stassi. Cain is the real wild card in all of this, but he is only this high up because Florida is such a difficult team for me to project. Cain would be a big stretch at 18, but a high upside, athletic high school arm makes sense in the spot.

1.22 Minnesota – OF Jared Mitchell (Louisiana State)
1.23 Chicago White Sox – RHSP Kyle Heckathorn (Kennesaw State)
1.24 Los Angeles Angels – LHSP Tyler Skaggs (Santa Monica HS – California)
1.25 Los Angeles Angels – 3B Matt Davidson (Yucaipa HS – California)

Mitchell to Minnesota would be a re-draft (they took him out of high school in 2006), so we know he fits their typical draft demographic beautifully. It’s possible that Mitchell fits the Twins model too well, seeing as they already have about a half dozen players with similar skillsets already in the system – it would almost be overkill at this point to draft another.

1.26 Milwaukee – OF Mike Trout (Millville HS – New Jersey)
1.27 Seattle – RHSP Jacob Turner (Westminster Academy – Missouri)
1.28 Boston – RHSP Sam Dyson (South Carolina)
1.29 New York Yankees – RHSP Alex Wilson (Texas A&M)
1.30 Tampa Bay – 1B Rich Poythress (Georgia)
1.31 Chicago Cubs – SS Jiovanni Mier (Bonita HS – California)
1.32 Colorado – OF Kentrail Davis (Tennessee)

Turner to the Mariners makes sense, if they are as willing to pony up the bucks as they have intimated. Projecting the top AL East teams is a killer, but it’s not much more than a coincidence that all three wound up with college players – Dyson and Wilson are high upside arms that would represent good value late in the first, but carry significant injury risk going forward. Poythress is a really hard player to squeeze in, but he’d be a really nice fit for a team in need of another big bat to balance out an already strong lineup, slotting in as either Pena’s successor at first or a DH option down the road. Davis is another player that probably shouldn’t be as high as he is in a vacuum, but in a draft like this he’ll get a substantial bonus because he has shown he can at least hit a little (we’re setting the bar low for bats this year, unfortunately).

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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2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers 2.0

Another week, another crack at separating the first round of the upcoming draft into tiers. Alright, that’s not entirely true — it’s been almost three weeks since we first did this — but calling this a triweekly isn’t nearly as catchy, plus it’s way more confusing. Did you know triweekly can either mean “three times a week” or “every three weeks?” How can a word mean such different things and get away with it? English, what a silly language…

This is a modified, way wimpier version of the tiered breakdown from three weeks ago. I’m sticking to players that are stone cold locks to go in the first round only. I have the utmost confidence that the following players will be first rounders in June.

  • Tier 1 –> 1 player

Strasburg

  • Tier 2 –> 9 players

Dustin Ackley/Kyle Gibson/Aaron Crow/Alex White/Grant Green
Shelby Miller/Tyler Matzek/Matt Purke/Donovan Tate

  • Tier 3 –> 6 players

Mike Leake/Tanner Scheppers/Rich Poythress

Luke Bailey/Zack Wheeler/Tyler Skaggs

That’s my new line of demarcation. 16 players that seem like sure bets to go in this year’s first round. If I wanted to get it up to an even twenty, I’d add the LSU duo (LeMahieu and Mitchell), my new favorite prep position player (yes, I’ve finally come around to Bobby Borchering), and this week’s fastest riser, lefty Rex Brothers of Lipscomb.  I’m hesistant to call any of those players locks at this point, but I reserve the right to be a wimp for now.

Where am I wrong? Which player listed won’t be a first rounder? (Tyler Skaggs?) Are there any names left off the list that will be guaranteed first rounders that I missed? (Max Stassi? Matt Davidson? Andy Oliver? Austin Maddox? Brett Jackson?)

Quick Friday Top Ten Mock

Bad Haikus...

1.1 Washington Nationals – Stephen Strasburg

High card in the deck
Twenty mil sounds about right
More hype than Barack

1.2 Seattle Mariners – Dustin Ackley

Z’s first draft as boss
Will defense dictate the pick?
No, instead Gwynn twin

1.3 San Diego Padres – Aaron Crow

Pads secret code
Yes, “the Crow flies at midnight”
Sorry, that was lame

1.4 Pittsburgh Pirates – Grant Green

Recent failures sting
Imagine this young core group
Green, Wieters, Upton…

1.5 Baltimore Orioles – Alex White

O’s new strategy
Slay East goliaths on mound
White needs his slingshot

1.6 San Francisco Giants – Donovan Tate

First prep player popped
Same tools as Carlos Beltran
Football? Zero chance

1.7 Atlanta Braves – Tyler Matzek

Home state player gone
Choice of prep port or starboard
Can’t beat the upside

1.8 Cincinnati Reds – Kyle Gibson

A perfect marriage
Groundballs and overworked arm
Fits ballpark, Dusty

1.9 Detroit Tigers – Shelby Miller

Grab righty and pray
System as down as GM
Cars and Dombrowski

1.10 Washington Nationals – James Paxton

Signability
Target rising college guy
Hey, I’d sign for slot!

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?

March 20th College Pitching Retrospective (Strasburg Free!)

A quick buzz over, around, and through college baseball’s Friday night pitching landscape (whatever that means) as I continue to tirelessly input the many weeks worth of statistical data recently lost because somebody has a weird mental block about saving his work…

The one and only... (more…)

Monday Morning Update

Just a few idle thoughts to get the week going strong. The past few days have been more about research (tons of data input) than writing, but expect plenty of good stuff (college team profiles, finally!) coming your way in the coming days. For now, enjoy some amateur observations made while slaving away on some of that oh so much fun data collecting from the past weekend…

  • I saw this fact somewhere over the weekend and it totally floored me – Alabama has won seven of eight all-time series against the number one ranked team at the time. Can that be true? It sounds almost unbelievable to me, but there it is.

The Crimson Tide took down top-ranked Georgia this weekend with a little help from senior slugger Kent Matthes. His numbers so far are astounding: 12 homers in 59 official at bats (1.169 SLG). That’s almost exactly one bomb for every five at bats…crazy.

  • Answer: 127, 124, 122, 121, 125, 120

Question: How many pitches were thrown over the weekend by Austin Hyatt (Alabama), Kyle Gibson (Missouri), Grant Dayton (Auburn), Deck McGuire (Georgia Tech), Tim Clubb (Missouri State), and Nick Hernandez (Tennessee) in their most recent respective starts?

Hyatt, Dayton, and Clubb can all be called sleeper prospects on a generous day, but the other pitchers (Gibson, McGuire, and Hernandez) are big-time talents pitching for big-time professional contracts every time they take the ball. I know it can’t be easy for a college coach to balance the pressure of winning ballgames in the short-term with the obligation of keeping these young arms healthy for the long-term. It’s also difficult to pass judgment as an outsider without knowing all of the details surrounding each individual coach, player, and specific in-game situation. But, come on, 120 pitches is 120 pitches. I’ll do my best to stay off the soapbox for now, instead opting to just report on pitcher abuse when it happens. You see the names, you see the numbers…let’s see what happens next.

  • The weekend saw plenty of excellent pitching performances, but we only have time to highlight the best of the best.

Out of all the players I inputed data for this weekend, Erik Stavert (Oregon) had the highest number of groundball outs. Stavert recorded 19 outs on balls in play, 15 of them on the ground.

Dallas Keuchel (Arkansas) shut down a good Florida lineup with the following line: 7 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 9 K  (9 GO/2 AO)

Kyle Blair (San Diego) was outdueled by the next player on our list, but his complete game line deserves props all the same: 8 IP 7 H 1 ER 1 BB 9 K (10 GO/6 AO)

Ryan Berry (Rice) clearly lives to to make me look stupid. It seems like every time I comment on how I like him but don’t love him, he goes out and does something like this: 9 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 8 K (11 GO/6 AO/3 LO)

The most dominating performance of the weekend belonged to Anthony Ranaudo (Louisiana State): 6 IP 6 H 3 ER 3 BB 13 K. Thirteen strikeouts in six innings is pretty impressive, sure, but how he did it was what made it fun. First five batters – KKKKK. Then a dropped foul ball followed by a walk. Next four batters – KKKK. Ranaudo’s first nine outs came via the strikeout. Through three innings the man had 9 strikeouts. I think it works better visually when ripped right from the game log:

Kentucky 1st -
C. Bisson struck out looking (0-2).
N. Johnson struck out swinging (1-2).
K. Wiley struck out swinging (1-2).
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors, 0 LOB.

Kentucky 2nd -
B. Kapteyn struck out swinging (2-2).
C. Wright struck out swinging (1-2).
Dropped foul ball, E2. M. Nidiffer walked (3-2).
C. Farris struck out swinging (3-2).
0 runs, 0 hits, 1 error, 1 LOB.

Kentucky 3rd - 

C. Wade struck out swinging (3-2).
A. Burns struck out looking (2-2).
C. Bisson struck out looking (2-2).
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors,0 LOB.

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 (5-2)

Better late than never, right? The righthanded pitchers listed below comprise 5 of the top 8 prospects ranked on the College Big Board 1.0. If you’re a fan of a team picking in the top half of round one, these are five names to know forwards and backwards. We continue the countdown of college righthanded starting pitching prospects with the players ranked 5 through 2 (who will be number one??????)…after the jump.  (more…)

College Mid-Week Update; Mike Leake vs. Kyle Gibson

What do you do when you don’t have a college team profile or a positional prospect ready to post? You’re about to find out! Who am I kidding, the title of the post is a dead give away. Time for an update on all the college action that’s gone down from Tuesday to Thursday. It’s an easy way to fill space and, really, isn’t that what the internet is all about? At it’s core, it always comes back to filling up space, one way or another.

Of course, combing through box score after box score, compiling information, and then trying to think of the occasional witty remark to break up the string of numbers takes a lot longer than it should. Longer than it would probably take to finish up a college profile or a prospect list. Hmm. Consider this way more than just filler (ignore the tag!), but rather a labor of love. Alright, I need to wrap this up. They say if the intro is too long then people will tune out and click away. They also say that if the intro is too boring, people won’t even bother ever coming back. What if it’s too long and too boring? Let’s hope we never find out…

The highlight of the mid-week games was the marquee pitching matchup between two first round rigthanders. I love it when a big pitching matchup lives up to the hype, don’t you?

Mike Leake (Arizona State): 8 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 10 K 11 GO 2 AO

Kyle Gibson (Missouri): 7 IP 5 H 2 ER 0 BB 8 K 9 GO 2 AO 2 LO

Gibson was very good, but Leake was even better. Both players have strong reputations as groundball pitchers and their numbers have backed it up. Gibson’s ground out, air out, and line out ratios through two starts: 15/5/3. Leake’s is even better: 19/3/1. I believe this is the only free resource on the internet that keeps track of such numbers, by the way. I mean, I’m not one to toot my own horn or anything, but it’s always bothered me that college stats were so poorly organized (trying to navigate some of these college box scores is a nightmare) and so well hidden from the public. College Splits is tremendous, but it’s gotten so good that their stats are darn near impossible to gain access to. Long story short, I’m just trying to do my part. Oh yeah, Gibson and Leake are good. Gibson was 5th on the Big Board and Leake was 11th.

And now for something totally different. Bob Revesz is an interesting lefthanded starter for Louisville (draft-eligible sophomore, iffy fastball, plus slider) who has one of the finer “Personal” facts on a team website I’ve ever seen. Normally when I say interesting, I mean it as an intentionally vague “player with an actual big league future” general comment. While Revesz does fit the profile of an “interesting” prospect — he looks like a good bet to make it in pro ball as a left reliever, at worst — he also fits the profile as, well, an “interesting” character. According to the Louisville team website, Revesz “once drank a cube of Mountain Dew in one night.” Really.

He did the Dew...

After the jump, all of the most important Tuesday and Wednesday adventures in college prospectdom recapped for your reading pleasure. (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.