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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).

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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.

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.

(more…)

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).

2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers

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

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

  • Tier 1 —> 1 player

RHSP Stephen Strasburg

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

Confidence Level —> Couldn’t be higher

  • Tier 2 —> 10 players

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

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

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

  • Tier 3 —> 5 players

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

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

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

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

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

  • Tier 4 —> 8 players

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

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

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

  • Tier 5 —> 6 players

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

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

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

  • The Rest…

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

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

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

2009 MLB Draft: College Big Board Report Cards

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

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

College Baseball’s Second Friday Night – A Pitching Retrospective

This is a Strasburg-free zone (more or less), so get your fix of the big man over at Strasburg Strasburg Strasburg Strasburg Strasburg

Highlights from the most notable pitching performances from the second Friday night of the college baseball. We’ve got great prospects, good prospects, and fringe prospects. Whatever you are in the mood for, we’ve got it. Well, as long as you are in the mood for college pitching prospects. If not, what the heck are you doing here? May I suggest a lovely knitting website that may better suit your interests?

Full report, after the jump… (more…)

2009 College Baseball Opening Night – A Pitching Retrospective

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

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

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

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

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

Cream of the Crop

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

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

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

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

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

Starter or Reliever?

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

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

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

Draft-Eligible Youngsters (Sophomores)

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

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

2010’s

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

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

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

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

New on Campus

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

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

Real Deal College Relievers

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

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

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

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

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