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We started this thing on Monday, so let’s keep it rolling with the next five prospects today. I appreciate the patience — good Wi-Fi seemingly comes and goes with no respect for logic — while I’m on the road doing the whole watching high school players at showcase thing for little to no money. Same basic caveats as last time: Links to the old scouting reports, such as they were, can be found along the way. New commentary is in black, old commentary is in navy blue, and statistics are all current within the last week. Prospects 1-10 are up now, the rest will come shortly.
6. Keyvius Sampson | Ocala Forest HS (FL) | San Diego Padres | 4th Round (2009)
2.95 ERA – 85.1 IP – 98 K/30 BB – 0.72 GO/AO
Not much to add to the line above other than to just reiterate that Sampson is just plain killing it in Low A as a 20 year old. There is still work to be done here — sharpen up fastball command, show more consistency with secondary stuff — but nothing outside the usual when it comes to any talented young hurler.
Sampson is one of the most athletic pitchers in the draft with a sharp curve that has the potential to be a plus pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s and has peaked at 95 MPH. That 95 MPH is his peak thus far; it would be a big upset if he doesn’t top that over and over again as his wiry frame fills out. Sampson’s plus athleticism leads to a very fluid, repeatable delivery (see for yourself above). He also features a good curve (80-81 MPH). I’m comfortable slapping a first round grade on him at this point.
7. Brooks Pounders | Temecula Valley HS (CA) | Pittsburgh Pirates | 2nd Round (2009)
4.02 ERA – 53.2 IP – 59 K/9 BB – 1.02 GO/AO
Pounders is pitching quite well out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh’s Low A team at just 20 years of age. His size (6’4″, 270 pounds) is a concern going forward, but as long as he keeps from getting any wider, expect to hear the inevitable Bobby Jenks comps before long. I’m traditionally biased against wide-body pitchers — note the absence of Matt Hobgood, the high school righthander who went fifth overall in 2009, from these rankings, though in fairness he did finish the year as my 50th overall draft prospect, 10th highest among prep righthanders — but I think I still like Pounders more than Baseball America apparently does. They left him off of the Pirates preseason top 30 altogether.
The first thing to jumps out about Pounders is his size; he has a gigantic frame (6-5, 220), but, more than just that, he really knows how to use his size and strength to his advantage on the mound. He pitches from a downward plane with a heavy fastball (90-94 MPH) that he can put anywhere he wants.
I also love the prep archetype that Pounders fits to a tee. My favorite story about a young pitcher is the one about the guy who “really knows how to pitch,” but then suddenly sees his velocity jump. It’s tricky to find a young pitcher who can be effective without his best stuff, so the players who learned how to pitch before developing the plus stuff can be extremely valuable properties. Pounders showed that advanced feel for pitching back when he was topping out in the mid-80s; now that he throws in the low- to mid-90s, he can apply the lessons he has learned with his new found ace stuff. In Pounders’ case, true ace stuff equals the aforementioned plus fastball, a true spinning slider with plus potential, a curveball that should at least be an above-average pitch, and an effective sinking changeup.
8. Daniel Tuttle | Randleman HS (NC) | Cincinnati Reds | 5th Round (2009)
4.59 ERA – 80.1 IP – 85 K/30 BB – 1.36 GO/AO
Tuttle seemed to be pitching effectively through 11 starts in Low A. That’s the good news. The bad news is he is currently on the Restricted List for the Reds Rookie League team as he serves his 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a second for testing positive for a second time for a “drug of abuse” on July 19th.
Finally, some real separation. The pitchers from this point on all offer something unique that sets them apart from the rest of the field. Tuttle’s breaking ball, a plus 10-4 slider with tight spin, is the pitch that sets him apart. The slider/sinker combo should serve him in inducing groundballs going forward, and a solid changeup makes for a usable fourth pitch. Prep pitchers with two plus pitches (the slider and a fastball that sits 90-94 MPH) tend to go high on draft day, and Tuttle should be no exception.
9. Mark Appel | Monte Vista HS (CA)
3.56 FIP – 110.1 IP – 7.42 K/9 – 2.20 BB/9
Mark Appel…for some reason that name rings a bell. Couldn’t be that he is considered the current favorite to land atop Houston’s draft board as the 2012 MLB Draft’s first overall pick, could it? Appel’s plus-plus fastball, plus slider, and emerging changeup, all in addition to a big league frame, repeatable delivery, and great athleticism, help build him a case as the top pitching prospect to come out of this class. I’d have him ahead of a few big names like Wheeler, Sampson, and, yes, Hobgood and at least as high as third best at this point, but would find it very difficult to pass on either Miller or Turner if given the choice between the three.
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.
10. Matt Graham | Oak Ridge HS (TX) | San Francisco Giants | 6th Round (2009)
7.34 ERA – 41.2 IP – 23 K/29 BB – 2.13 GO/AO
Graham was, to literally put it as nicely as I can think of, pitching not so well in both Low A and then back down in Short Season ball. His fall from grace reminds me a bit of a more extreme version of what happened to current Royals prospect and fellow one-time draft favorite Tim Melville. On the bright side, there’s still plenty of time for Graham to turn it all around!
Matt Graham holds a special place in my heart as the most difficult player to find a spot for in the rankings. Last year at this time it wasn’t strange to see Graham listed on lists of the top ten amateur players in the country. Fast forward twelve months and it is debatable as to whether or not he is a top ten righthanded high school pitcher. Graham’s slide coincided with the disappearance of his good stuff, most notably a big decline in fastball velocity. He followed the disappointing end to his junior season with a strong rebound on the summer showcase circuit. If his resurgence continues into the spring, expect to hear a lot of buzz surrounding the sturdy Texan with a potential plus fastball, good curve, and a heavy sinker.