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Friday Night Lights – College Baseball’s Best Pitching Prospect Performances (2/18/11)

1. I am a long way away from actually finalizing my college pitching rankings, but I’m pretty much locked in on who will sit atop the list. As impressive as Texas Christian SO LHP Matt Purke (4 shutout innings) and Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann (9 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K, only 95 pitches) performed, UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole (9 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 11 K) is the man. Better believe they’ll be more on him to come over the next few weeks.

2. Texas A&M JR RHP John Stilson was only omitted from the previous entry because he slipped my mind, but, really, the guy belongs in the top college arm discussion with the likes of Cole, Purke, Jungmann, et al.  Perhaps it is for the best that the least well known major college pitcher gets his own space, so we can fully appreciate his sustained run of dominance. Stilson’s 2010 season (14 K/9) was the stuff of legend, and his transition to starting on Friday nights (6 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K) has started with a bang. My favorite part of his Friday line: 18 outs recorded, 9 via strikeout, 9 via groundball, 0 fly balls. He’s a starter all the way for me, despite the sentiment that he is too much of a two-pitch thrower to get through the lineup multiple times. I’ve heard too many positive things about both his changeup and his slider to believe differently.

3. Washington State JR LHP Adam Conley opened some eyes by peaking at 95-96 MPH on Friday. My earliest notes on him have him sitting 86-88 with a peak between 90-92. Amazing what some time working with a great college staff can do for a kid. Credit should also be given to Conley (by all accounts a really hard worker), as well as the natural maturation that comes with growing into a sturdy 6-3, 185 pound frame (up 15 pounds from his freshman year).

4. The Cole Hamels’ clones just keep coming. It isn’t just Conley with the mid-90s heat and a plus changeup. Virginia JR LHP Danny Hultzen (check out his Friday night two-way line: 2-4, BB, 3 RBI and, more importantly, 6.2 IP 3 H 1 ER 1 BB 10 K) and Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley (he pitched Saturday, but I’m cheating to make a point…5.2 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 10 K) both offer outstanding four-pitch arsenals that include that magic mid-90s fastball and plus change combo that I love. Heck, all three of these guys were big favorites before they bumped up their velocity because of the way they reminded me of Vanderbilt’s Mike Minor, one of my favorite draft prospects of the past few years. Here’s what I said about Minor on his draft day, by the way:

LOVE Mike Minor – good enough velocity, plus change, either the curve or the slider will be a plus pitch down the line (I think), great command, very good athlete, smooth delivery, repeatable mechanics, pitched at an outstanding program. This pick will get panned by everybody, but they are wrong – Minor is an absolute keeper. I had him at 18 on my big board, so maybe I’m full of it by saying he was a great pick at 7…but, factoring in signability, it’s a very good, very safe pick.

5. Hultzen may be the best junior two-way player in the land, but Florida SO LHP/1B Brian Johnson has to be tops of the sophomore class. His Friday looked very similar to Hultzen’s: (2-4, 2 2B, RBI, R and 6 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 6 K. Bonus fact: Johnson faced the minimum number of batters in his 2011 debut. Hultzen is a pitcher all the way, but Johnson is seen as talented enough to go either way at this point.

6. Really happy to see Notre Dame SR RHP Brian Dupra healthy and pitching well (7 IP 7 H 2 ER 0 BB 5 K) once again. Dupra looked like a top five round lock heading into his junior year, but injury and ineffectiveness forced him into returning for his senior year in an attempt to reestablish his draft stock. I haven’t heard anything about his stuff on Friday, but if it reached pre-injury levels (mid-90s FB, hard cutter, good low-80s SL), then he could position himself as one of the top college power pitching prospects, as well as easily the most desirable college pitching senior sign.

7. Another interesting draft prospect and college senior, Oklahoma SR RHP Michael Rocha, put on a show this Friday: 7 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 7 K. Rocha doesn’t have near the velocity of Dupra at his best, but thrives on his funky breaking stuff, good command, and high pitching IQ. Rocha’s one-hit performance was matched by Alabama JR LHP Adam Morgan, who put up the following line: 5.1 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K. Unlike the power fastball lefties mentioned above, Morgan instead follows in the footsteps of the more typical, pitchability style of crafty college lefties. The lack of a big fastball stings a little less when you have a plus curve, a pitch that I think ranks in the top ten of its type amongst 2011 college draft prospects.

8. The college pitching in Texas this year is Gottfried Leibniz level deep. Jungmann and Stilson may be the headliners, but fellow Lone Star ballers Texas State JR RHP Carson Smith and Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett could wind up at the tail end of the first round with big springs. Their respective debuts (Smith: 2 IP 3 H 1 ER 0 BB 4 K; Verrett: 3 IP 6 H 4 ER 1 BB 3 K) weren’t as pretty as I’m sure they would have liked, but both continued to show the first round quality stuff they’ve grown famous for. Smith has the frame (6-5, 220) and a fastball to dream on, while Verrett potential for four above-average pitches is tantalizing.

9. Two of my favorite Conference USA prospects put up unique lines that deserve a little love. Check out the Friday line for Southern Miss SR RHP Todd McInnis: 8 IP 5 H 0 ER 0 BB 7 K. Very good line, right? What makes that performance truly exception, assuming there wasn’t a typo on the box score, is the following: he threw 45 pitches! Is that even possible? At least 21 pitches were thrown to get those 7 strikeouts. That leaves 24 pitches to get the 17 remaining outs. Incredible, if true. The line for Central Florida SR LHP Nick Cicio was impressive, if significantly less rare: 3 IP 1 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K. That’s an example of how a college lefty straight out of central casting (mid-80s fastball, good change, slurvy breaking pitch) can dominate out of the pen.

10. Think we could all agree that a line of [9 IP 5 H 0 ER 1 BB 8 K] would make for a darn fine outing by any starting pitcher. It also works as a pretty great combined line shared by two legit mid- to late-round 2011 draft prospects. In a performance reminiscent of peak years Legion of Doom, or, my sentimental personal favorite, The Natural Disasters, Wichita State SR RHP Tim Kelley (5 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 6 K) and SO LHP Brian Flynn (4 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 2 K) tag teamed to shut down the opposition on Friday night. Both pitchers profile best as middle relievers professionally, with Flynn getting more current buzz due to his readymade WWF size and strength (6-8, 240…so big I had to double check on the website to make sure I didn’t copy it wrong in my notes).

***

Bonus! Stanford SO RHP and potential 2012 top ten pick Mark Appel (5.2 IP 8 H 2 ER 1 BB 4 K) didn’t quite light the world on fire with his opening night line, but the velocity pickup in his stuff (FB now peaking in the upper-90s, SL now peaking mid-80s) had everybody taking notice. If he can integrate his changeup (plus potential there) more as the season goes on, he’ll head into 2012 on the short list of candidates to go in the top three. Back in February 2009 I had him as the 9th best prep righthander, sandwiched between Daniel Tuttle and Matt Graham. This was his quick writeup:

Appel’s strong verbal commitment to Stanford will drop him down draft boards, but he is a great athlete, with a wiry frame with room to fill out, an impressive hard slider, solid change, and the ability to play around with his fastball (mostly by cutting and sinking it). The Cardinal normally get their man, so Appel’s signability will be something to keep on eye on.

Looking Forward to the Past

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

There Were Ten Tigers

Photo Credit: There Were Ten Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stacking up the ’09’s with the ’08’s

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

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

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

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

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

2009 MLB Draft: Top High School Righthanded Pitching Cheatsheet

To make organization around these parts a little bit easier, here is a list of 32 high school righthanded pitchers worth knowing so far. Players already covered appear both in bold and in parentheses. Each player’s info is displayed using the following basic format:

Name, height, weight, fastball velocity, other pitches — slider, curveball, changeup, etc., miscelleaneous information

The list of players to watch will surely grow between now and June, but this ought to serve as a decent resource for the time being.

  1. (Mark Appel, 6-4, 185, FB: peak 92, SL, CU)
  2. Jake Barrett, 6-3, 225, FB: peak 91, sits upper-80s, CB, CU, good young power hitter
  3. Justin Bellez, 6-1, 180, FB: peak 92, SL: 10/4, CU, repeatable easy mechanics
  4. Bryan Berglund, 6-3, 175, FB: 89-91, SL: [+] 81-86, CU
  5. (Ethan Carter, 6-5, 205, FB: peak 90-91, SL: mid-70s, CU: low-80s, cut fastball)
  6. (Brody Colvin, 6-4, 190, FB: 90-93, CB: 10/4, CU)
  7. (Jordan Cooper, 6-1, 195, FB: peak 91, CB/SL: [+] potential, injury history)
  8. Michael Dedrick, 6-3, 185, FB: low-90s, CB: [+]
  9. Dylan Floro, 6-1, 175, FB: peak 92, CB, SL, CU, four average or above pitch guy
  10. (Mychal Givens, 6-1, 185, FB: peak 96-98, SL, CU, excellent sinker)
  11. Garrett Gould, 6-4, 195, FB: 88-91, CB: 12/6, 81, spike, CU: 78-80, above average command and pitchability
  12. (Matt Graham, 6-3, 195, FB: peak 94, CB)
  13. (Scott Griggs, 6-2, 185, FB: sits low-90s, peak 95, plus command and makeup)
  14. Brooks Hall, 6-5, 200, FB: 90-92, SL, CU, sound delivery
  15. (Michael Heller, 6-2, 180, FB: sits 90-93, peak 95, CB, CU: 75)
  16. Matt Hobgood, 6-4, 240, FB: sits 91-93, peak 95, good hitter
  17. (Chris Jenkins, 6-7, 235, FB: sits 91-93, peak 94, SL: [+] potential, command issues, high effort delivery)
  18. Matt Koch, 6-3, 185, FB: 88-91, SL, CB, CU, raw mechanics
  19. (Shelby Miller, 6-3, 195, FB: sits 91-93, peak 94, CB: mid-70s, CU: 80, SL, holds velocity late, exceptional balance, heavy fastball)
  20. James Needy, 6-6, 195, FB: low-90s, CB, SL, CU
  21. Keifer Nuncio, 6-2, 195, FB: peak 91, CB, CU
  22. (Brooks Pounders, 6-5, 220, FB: peak 94, CB: [+] potential, plus hitter)
  23. David Renfroe, 6-3, 180, FB: 88-92, CB: 12/6, clean and easy mechanics, plus athlete
  24. Felix Roque, 6-5, 200, FB: 88-91, SL: [+], CU, heavy sinker
  25. (Keyvius Sampson, 6-1, 185,FB: low-90s, peak 95, CB: low-80s, CU: potential [+], clean delivery, plus athlete)
  26. Trent Stevenson, 6-6, 165, FB: 86-90, SL: 73-78,
  27. Chad Thompson, 6-8, 215, FB: sits 90-93, peak 94, CB, CU, SF: potential [+]
  28. (Jacob Turner, 6-4, 205, FB: peak 93/94, CB: [+] pitch in mid-70s, CU: circle change, clean mechanics, good command)
  29. (Daniel Tuttle, 6-2, 185, FB: sits 90-93, peak 94, SL: 10/4 [+] pitch, sinker)
  30. (Zack Wheeler, 6-4, 180, FB: peak 95, SL: potential [+], low-80s, CB, splitter)
  31. Zack Von Rosenberg, 6-5, 200, FB: 88-91, CB: mid-70s, CU: high-70s, good mechanics
  32. Madison Younginer, 6-3, 185, FB: low-90s, peak 94, CU: sinking action, CB

2009 MLB Draft: Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (Number 1)

Finally, the top high school righthanded pitcher in the 2009 draft class. Because we’ve already spoiled the surprise in the title, let’s get right down to it. Before we do that, here’s the rest of the list:

Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (15 thru 11)
Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (10 thru 6)
Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (5 thru 2)

1. Shelby Miller – Brownwood HS (Texas)

Miller has established himself as the premier high school righthanded pitcher of the 2009 draft class. While Miller is an outstanding prospect who carries a no doubt about it first round grade, the distinction as best high school righthanded pitcher doesn’t carry quite the same weight this year as it may have carried in years past. Unlike the gargantuan distance between the top two high school lefthanders and the rest of the prep lefty field, there is very little that separates the “elite” group of high school righties from the rest of the group. I wonder if that’s a byproduct of the very nature of what makes up a “high school righthanded pitching prospect.” Or maybe this particular class of high school righthanders just so happens to have a whole bunch of similarly talented players. I don’t know. What I do know is that the 2009 high school righthanders are a talented bunch headed up by a pretty exciting young player in Shelby Miller. Miller is just one of five high school righthanders that currently carry near-consensus first round grades, a list that also includes Jacob Turner, Mychal Givens, Zack Wheeler, and Scott Griggs. Miller is also one of a whopping seven pitchers that I personally consider first round caliber talents out of this group – the five aforementioned arms, plus Keyvius Sampson and Brooks Pounders, should be first rounders come June when it all comes together for them this spring.

No picture before the jump, but instead words of empirically juiced up wisdom from a man much smarter than I. The three groups referred to here are high school pitchers, college pitchers, and college hitters, by the way. Read, ponder, and then kindly check out more on the top prep righty after the jump…

Draft Rule #8: There is virtually no difference whatsoever in the value of the other three groups of draft picks. In particular, it is no longer apparent that high school pitchers, even in the first round, are significantly riskier than either high school hitters or college pitchers.

From 1992 to 1999, pitchers out of college returned 14.6% less value than expected. Pitchers drafted out of high school were at -14.9%. High school hitters checked in at -20.9%.

(more…)

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

Today we continue with our look at the top 15 draft-eligible high school righthanded pitchers in the country. Yesterday, we met Jordan Cooper, Ethan Carter, Chris Jenkins, Brody Colvin, and Michael Heller. In case you missed it and can’t be bothered to look down the page, here’s what we’ve done so far:

Top 15 High School Righthanded Pitchers (15 thru 11)
Mock Draft 1.0
(or everybody’s favorite feature)
A Method to the Madness
(or what we are all about)

We haven’t done a whole lot just yet, so there’s still time to catch up. Do it! Do it now! I’ll wait…

Anyway, players 10 thru 6 are next up. For a hint at one of the names on the list, check out the video below. Now I know what you’re thinking – I’m good like that. You’re thinking, come on man, this is nothing more than a transparent attempt to try out embedding a video for the first time. Well, congratulations – you’ve got me all figured out. But, honestly, it’s a good video and it does reveal the top name on today’s part of the list…and I know you are just dying to know who it is.

A new batch of names, including the young man featured in the video above, after the jump… (more…)