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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?

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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…)