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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?
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.
One of the most appealing aspects of doing the blog thing is the ability to actually interact with people who care about college/high school ball and the draft. I like the diverging opinions people seem to have about the placement of players on some of the lists posted thus far. The comments have been of excellent quality and they always give me a chance to reevaluate how I’ve assessed a particular player’s value as a prospect – sometimes it takes nothing more than a kick in the butt from a different perspective than mine to remind me that, hey, Player X should/shouldn’t be ranked where he is…so long as there is some kind of reasoning to back it up, I’m always willing to listen and potentially change my mind.
To those that have comments featured in the mailbag, please let me know if you want attribution and I’ll add your name and a link or whatever so that you get proper credit. I wanted to do it right off the bat, but I figured I’d play it safe and ask just in case. I’m not sure if there will be any interest in this, but it’s something I feel like trying – my apologies to anybody who actually reads my responses in the comments and catches on that these are essentially re-runs…I’m not tryinig to pull a fast one, just wanted to give good comments (and hopefully well reasoned responses) the proper amount of recognition they deserve.
Reader comments/questions along with my answers after the jump… (more…)
Pitching, pitching, pitching. It seems like all we ever do around here anymore, right? The most noteworthy pitching performances from college baseball’s second Saturday of the season below, but, before we start, a quick recap of some recent stuff you may have missed this weekend…
Matt Harvey (North Carolina): 4 IP 0 H 0 ER 2 BB 7 K, 2 separate games
Comparing any college pitcher to Stephen Strasburg is unfair and irresponsible, so let’s do it anyway. Strasburg will be the first overall pick of the 2009 Rule 4 Draft. Matt Harvey is the early favorite to go first overall in 2010. Below is a fair and responsible look at how their numbers stack up so far:
Harvey’s line: 9 IP 3 H 3 ER 2 BB 18 K (1 WP, 1 HBP)
Strasburg’s line: 12.1 IP 8 H 2 ER 3 BB 27 K (1 WP, 1 HBP)
In the weird and wonderful world of amateur baseball, performance doesn’t always necessarily tell the whole story, what with park factors, levels of competition, strength of schedules, and relatively small samples and all. It’s hard to line up two statistical profiles and draw any kind of grand conclusion. But the raw numbers comparing Strasburg and Harvey do suggest similar performances thus far, something I think is pretty interesting.
There are reasons every move Strasburg makes is newsworthy and I’m not not not trying to say that anybody here or elsewhere is sleeping on Matt Harvey (he’s a big deal and has been for a good long while), I’m just throwing this out there as a lead-in to my question – what is the likelihood, if it exists at all, that Matt Harvey reaches the same level of hype other elite college pitchers (Strasburg, Price, and Prior, to name a few) had heading into his draft year?
Six other pitchers to watch after the jump… (more…)
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.
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.