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GO/AO Data Update 2.0 – May 21, 2010

Data good through May 20th. Weekend homework will be completing a few more college position lists (3B, OF, RHP, LHP) and starting back in with the high schoolers. For now, in an effort to buy me some more time to work on big stuff like that, I present the finest publicly available GO% in all the land…

North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey: 64%
Tennessee JR LHP Bryan Morgado: 51%
Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis: 70% (!)
Texas JR RHP Brandon Workman: 56%
LSU JR RHP Austin Ross: 39%
Miami JR LHP Chris Hernandez: 63%
South Carolina JR RHP Sam Dyson: 68%
Florida State JR LHP John Gast: 69%
Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn: 73% (10/0 GO/AO ratio in return from injury)
Texas SO RHP Taylor Jungmann: 65%
Virginia SO LHP Danny Hultzen: 50%
Kentucky SO RHP Alex Meyer: 53%
Rice SO LHP Taylor Wall: 58%
UCLA SO RHP Trevor Bauer: 44%
Vanderbilt SO RHP Jack Armstrong: 57%
Gonzaga SO LHP Ryan Carpenter: 56%
Kentucky JR LHP Logan Darnell: 57%

Mid-May GO% Update

Again, just a random sampling of a few of the best, worst, and perfectly neutral groundball inducing 2010 MLB draft-eligible pitchers. If there’s anybody not included that you want to see, feel free to ask in the comments or via email. If you’ve asked about a specific pitcher recently (Cole Cook, for example), hang in there – I have the data updated, but I want to double-check it one last time before publishing it.

Also, I’ve got a really good Anthony Ranaudo comp that I want to share, but, before I do, I’m curious – anybody else out there have a comp on him they are comfortable with? I’m on record of loving player comparisons because I think they help fans get a general idea of the kind of player the previous unknown amateur prospect could be someday, but I know not everybody is on board. Data time!

TOP

70% – Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis

70%  – Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn

69% – South Carolina JR RHP Sam Dyson

68% – California SO RHP Dixon Anderson

68% – Florida State JR LHP John Gast

66% – North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey

65% – Miami JR LHP Chris Hernandez

62% – Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale

MIDDLE

50% – Louisville JR RHP Thomas Royse

50% – Ohio State JR RHP Alex Wimmers

BOTTOM

35% – Louisiana State JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo

32% – San Diego SR RHP AJ Griffin

GO/AO Data Update (through May 2)

First, a special thank you to everybody who reads the gibberish I churn out on a semi-daily basis around here. April was the best month from a traffic standpoint in the history of the site, besting the previous high watermark set last June. We’re up over 200,000 visitors and climbing. Thank you.

Second, another thank you for anybody who has commented or emailed over the past few weeks. I’ve read everything readers have sent in and learned a whole lot in the process. No one man can cover the draft by himself, so the help I receive in the comments or via email goes a long way in getting the best quality draft coverage out in the open. Thank you. Responses will finally be coming this week, so be on the look out for that.

Third, here’s a quick idea of what I’ve got on the agenda for the next week or so, in no particular order:

  • Mystery Draft – High School Outfielders
  • College Position Ranking – Shortstops and/or Catchers
  • Alternate Reality Mock Draft – All Players Must Go to College (all members of 2007 prep class draft-eligible)
  • 2010 MLB Mock Draft! Finally!

Anything else? I’m always open for suggestions.

Fourth, data! Top dozen groundballers in my admittedly not 100% comprehensive database:

  • Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray: 2.73 GO/AO
  • Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis: 2.33 GO/AO
  • Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn: 2.33 GO/AO
  • South Carolina JR RHP Sam Dyson: 2.13 GO/AO
  • California SO RHP Dixon Anderson: 2.13 GO/AO
  • Florida State JR LHP John Gast: 2.11 GO/AO
  • Stanford SO LHP Brett Mooneyham: 2.09 GO/AO
  • Texas SO Taylor Jungmann: 2.00 GO/AO
  • North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey: 1.89 GO/AO
  • Miami JR LHP Chris Hernandez: 1.86 GO/AO
  • Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale: 1.69 GO/AO
  • Notre Dame JR RHP Brian Dupra: 1.67 GO/AO

Now for the top half dozen…airballers?…in the same database:

  • San Diego SR RHP AJ Griffin: 0.44 GO/AO
  • LSU JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo: 0.57 GO/AO
  • LSU JR Austin Ross: 0.60 GO/AO
  • Cal State Fullerton SO RHP Tyler Pill: 0.62 GO/AO
  • UCLA SO RHP Trevor Bauer: 0.73 GO/AO
  • Georgia JR RHP Justin Grimm: 0.84 GO/AO

More Data – April 22, 2010

Random sampling of some of the players I’ve kept track of so far this year…

***

School – Year – Pitcher – % of batted ball outs classified as “ground balls”

San Diego SR RHP AJ Griffin – 31%

Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis – 71%

Texas JR RHP Brandon Workman – 55%

Louisiana State JR RHP Austin Ross – 38%

South Carolina JR RHP Sam Dyson – 64%

San Diego JR RHP Kyle Blair – 50%

San Diego JR LHP Sammy Solis – 56%

California JR RHP Dixon Anderson – 67%

Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn – 70%

Arkansas JR RHP Brett Eibner – 43%

Florida State JR LHP John Gast – 67%

***

Stanford SO LHP Brett Mooneyham – 66%

UCLA SO RHP Trevor Bauer – 43%

Vanderbilt SO RHP Jack Armstrong – 61%

2010 Draft-Eligible Pitching: Groundout Percentage

A few side projects that have been holding up things on the site should be wrapped up over the weekend, so expect a return to site normalcy before too long.

As for today’s post, well, it’s exactly what the title says. I’ve been keeping track of as many of the big 2010 names as I can, so if there is anybody you’re curious about, let me know and I’ll check to see if I have the data. I also have some of the biggest names of 2011 and 2012 tracked, so, again, if there is anybody you want to know about, let me know. Some of the names and numbers that caught my eye so far:

North Carolina RHP Matt Harvey – 82%

Florida Gulf Coast LHP Chris Sale – 71%

Texas Tech RHP Chad Bettis – 91%

Texas RHP Brandon Workman – 62%

Mississippi LHP Drew Pomeranz – 61%

Georgia RHP Justin Grimm – 57%

LSU RHP Anthony Ranaudo – 38% (note: all of these are small samples, but Ranaudo’s is especially small — one start — due to his injury)

Ohio State RHP Alex Wimmers – 53%

Georgia Tech RHP Deck McGuire – 43%

South Carolina RHP Sam Dyson – 59%

San Diego RHP Kyle Blair – 36%

San Diego LHP Sammy Solis – 52%

Cal RHP Dixon Anderson – 71%

Virginia Tech RHP Jesse Hahn – 75%

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.

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Alternate Reality Mock Draft – Name Game

Don’t freak out, this isn’t a “real” mock draft.

We began last month we an Alternate Reality Mock Draft, so it just feels right to kick June off in similar fashion. What the heck is an alternate reality mock draft? So glad you asked. This is how I described it (without actually describing it, of course) last month…

We’re promoting a new feature straight from AA to the big leagues today because, well, it’s Friday and that seems like as good a day as any to trot out something totally random and nonsensical. Alternate Reality Drafts – the name evokes a certain feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I like. Something about alternate realities and parallel universes really get the blood flowing.

A “real” mock draft is primed and ready, but it’ll need another quick edit before seeing the light of day. In the meantime, let’s pretend for a second that Bud Selig is utterly incompetent, out of touch, and flat out bad at his job. I know it’s a stretch, but try your best. Now let’s pretend that Bud’s latest executive decision was to announce that all big league clubs could only draft players with last names that share the first letter of the city in which they play. Got it? Good. Ignoring for a minute how utterly stupid and arbitrary such a decision would be, let’s see how this Alternate Reality Mock Draft would look if such rules were in place…

1.1 Washington: RHSP Zack Wheeler – The Nationals just can’t catch a break. Wheeler is a very good prospect, but missing out on a generational talent like Stephen Strasburg is a bitter pill to swallow. At least they’ll save some serious coin, right? Hey, maybe they can use the savings to hire a spellchecker…

1.2 Seattle: RHSP Stephen Strasburg – Hot rumor alert – Seattle’s petition to have MLB adopt my silly draft rule is being faxed to corporate headquarters as we speak…

1.3 San Diego: RHSP Tanner Scheppers – Scheppers may not be a terrible idea for the Padres in the real draft. He figures to be a reasonably easy sign (little to no leverage), but not at the expense of upside (I waffle at times, but I think I’m buying the talk that he has the second best raw stuff of any “college” guy behind Strasburg).

1.4 Pittsburgh: LHSP Matthew Purke – The Pirates have very few options here at pick number four (AJ Pollock being the only other potential first rounder with the magic letter leading off his last name), but Purke isn’t a bad consolation prize for a franchise in need of impact talent.

1.5 Baltimore: 3B Bobby Borchering – Slim pickings here for Baltimore, but they make the most of it by taking one of my absolute favorite bats in this entire draft. They have to hope that this pick works out a little better than the last time they drafted a high school infielder in the top ten…

1.6 San Francisco: LHSP Tyler Skaggs – After losing out on two electric arms, the Giants can only curse their bad luck and settle for a high upside prep arm. Max Stassi was also considered, but the Giants couldn’t justify using back to back high first rounders on catchers. Skaggs actually reminds me a little bit of a Madison Bumgarner/Tim Alderson mashup, so maybe there will be a happy ending in San Fran after all.

1.7 Atlanta: CF Dustin Ackley – If Seattle was the clear big winner in this format, then Atlanta is a close second. Ackley is a perfect fit for a Braves team loaded with young talent, but desperate for a fast moving bat. Ackley could slide right into the big league lineup by late summer; he would easily be the best hitter in their outfield from day one one, a backhanded compliment if there ever was one.

1.8 Cincinnati: RHSP Aaron Crow – A fake mock pick that could imitate the real thing, the Reds would be more than happy to land the near ML-ready groundballing righthander. The Reds thank their lucky stars that they pick ahead of the Rockies, knowing that the pickings are slim after Crow. Who would be next on their list? Brody Colvin is one of the few names I can come up with off the top of my head…

1.9 Detroit: RHSP Sam Dyson – Dyson over 3B Matt Davidson only because of Detroit scouting director David Chadd’s love of high velocity pitching. Dyson’s stock has yo-yoed all spring long, but the raw stuff is pretty sensational and worth the gamble at this spot. If he had performed better this season, this pick could have had an outside shot of happening in real life, but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

1.10 Washington: RHSP Alex White – It’s not quite Strasburg, but a Wheeler/White combo is intriguing in it’s own right. If the Nationals were still in Montreal, they could have had a 1-2 punch of Tyler Matzek and Shelby Miller. Wheeler and White or Matzek and Miller – which is the better combo? I think I’d take the latter, but it’s close.

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).

Pitch Counts

No, this won’t be another rant about the responsibility (or lack thereof) that college coaches have towards balancing saving their own hides by pleasing the alumni base by winning as many ballgames as possible in the short-term with respecting the overall health and potential loss of future professional earnings of student-athletes supposedly under their care. (Man, how’s that for a run-on sentence? My high school English teacher must be rolling in her grave…). Nor will it be a treatise on how often evidence showing high pitch counts (especially pitch counts over 120) as dangerous to a pitcher’s long-term health and short-term performance is ignored by a certain segment of the population, a group that still believes in the infallibility of many of the arm shredding techniques of yesteryear. (Not only a run-on sentence, but also awkwardly worded…I’m on a roll!). No, none of that – not today, anyway.

All I’m trying to say is that high pitch counts absolutely have to be considered when teams stack their draft boards each year. Nothing more, nothing less. To that end, let’s take a quick look after the jump at a few of the big names stretched beyond a “safe” number of pitches this past weekend…

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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?

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…)

2009 MLB Draft: Top 15 College Righthanded Pitchers (15-11)

Ahhh, actual content. Get your work week off started off right by perusing the first third of the 2009 Rule 4 Draft’s finest draft-eligible college righthanded pitchers. Make sure to check back throughout the week as we count down to the number one spot. I won’t reveal too much information about our number one college righty, except to say that he could potentially be referred to as S. Strasburg. No, wait – too obvious. Let’s just call him Stephen S. Yeah, that’s much better. College righthanders 15 through 11 right after this stunning picture our 11th ranked righty…

Photo Credit: Juan Blas/The Daily Gamecock

Photo Credit: Juan Blas/The Daily Gamecock

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2009 MLB Draft: College Big Board 1.0

1. Steven Strasburg (RHSP – San Diego State)

Alright, so far this is pretty easy…

2. Alex White (RHSP – North Carolina)
3. Grant Green (SS – Southern California)
4. Dustin Ackley (OF – North Carolina)
5. Kyle Gibson (RHSP – Missouri)

White is a confusing prospect. On one hand, he’s second on the board and, while Green may be very close behind him at number three, is a worthy candidate to go number two overall. On the other hand, if we pretended Strasburg wasn’t draft-eligible this year, would White as the number one pick in the country feel right? That may be a silly way of looking at it, but I can’t help it. Maybe it’s more about my personal hangup about what a number one overall pick should be. I like White a lot and genuinely believe he can front a big league rotation, but it would feel like a weak draft if he went number one overall. Ugh, that makes no sense. I’m just thinking out loud, disregard this paragraph…

6. Mike Minor (LHSP – Vanderbilt)
7. Tanner Scheppers (RHSP – Fresno State/St. Paul Saints)
8. Aaron Crow (RHSP – Missouri/Forth Worth Cats)
9. Andrew Oliver (LHSP – Oklahoma State)

Minor is a personal favorite and higher on this list than he’ll sure be on others – watching Cole Hamels every fifth day the last few years has turned me into a huge backer of lefties with plus changeups. Scheppers is also higher here than he’ll be on most rankings, but, remember, this ranking is based on the assumption of good health into the summer.

10. Josh Phegley (C – Indiana)
11. Mike Leake (RHSP – Arizona State)
12. James Jones (LHSP – Long Island)
13. Kendal Volz (RHSP – Baylor)
14. Mike Nesseth (RHSP – Nebraska)

Phegley as the third ranked college bat may seem a little strange, but his statistical profile is hard to ignore. He heads up an underrated group of college catchers that feature a surprisingly high number of players on the list – well, maybe it isn’t all that surprising, but it was surprising to me as I put the list together, whatever that’s worth. Leake over Volz is a little strange, but it came down to present plus command and movement over potential power plus stuff across the board.

15. Sean Black (RHSP – Seton Hall)
16. Jake Locker (OF – Washington)

Sometimes I have a hard time letting go. I know I previously admitted having Locker = poor man’s Grady Sizemore burned into my brain, but Sean Black this high could be just as egregious a selection. Black was a big prep prospect not too long ago who has failed to live up to the hype at Seton Hall. Loads of raw talent + more difficult playing conditions (subpar team, so-so conference, and colder weather) = potential sleeper prospect. Locker will fall down the list (and eventually off altogether) as other players emerge this spring, but I had to put him way up here as a nod to his prodigious talent.

17. Kentrail Davis (OF – Tennessee)
18. Robbie Shields (SS – Florida Southern)
19. Jared Mitchell (OF – Louisiana State)
20. Kyle Seager (2B – North Carolina)
21. Rich Poythress (1B – Georgia)

Counting Locker at 16th, that gives us sixth straight position players in a row. How about that? These five should all be big league starters if all goes according to plan, though only the two outfielders profile as potential all-stars.

22. Sam Dyson (RHSP – South Carolina)
23. Chris Dominguez (3B – Louisville)

All or nothing, here we come. Dyson’s arm is electric, but his injury history and control both need some cleaning up. Dominguez has his detractors, but two plus tools (arm and power) make him stand out in a weak college class for hitters. If he puts it all together this season, expect crazy power numbers out of Dominguez, especially in Big East play.

24. Ryan Ortiz (C – Oregon State)
25. DJ LeMahieu (SS – Louisiana State)
26. Trevor Coleman (C – Missouri)
27. Robert Stock (C – Southern California)
28. Ryan Jackson (SS – Miami)

Five spots, only two positions. Sorting out the college catchers and middle infielders is one of the trickier things to do in this class. Ortiz is an underrated player because his skillset is so broad. Players like this often get overlooked for not having one standout tool to suck scouts in. LeMahieu is a far better hitter than Jackson, but they are close in the overall rankings because Jackson’s defense is outstanding. Big league front offices realize the importance of quality defense now more than ever, so where Jackson falls on actual draft boards will make an interesting case study in just how focused teams are developing their own standout defenders through the draft. As I already wrote about in the mock draft, Stock = catching version of Sean Black. Of course, baseball is a weird game so there may be more to the story than that simple equation (I like equations, by the way…if you haven’t noticed. We might be able to claim that Stock = Black without the catching disclaimer if the Southern Cal product has a big season on the mound for the Trojans.

29. AJ Pollock (OF/2B – Notre Dame)
30. Jason Stoffel (RHRP – Arizona)
31. Bryan Morgado (LHSP – Tennessee)
32. Kyle Heckathorn (RHSP – Kennesaw State)

Pollock is a hard player to figure, but if the position switch to second base actually sticks, he’ll fly up draft boards this spring. He is a very good basestealer, has playable pop, and is difficult to strike out. Pollock is one of the few I haven’t seen play yet, so I’m just throwing this out there…what about Chone Figgins as a comp?

33. Ben Tootle (RHRP – Jacksonville State)
34. Shawn Tolleson (RHSP – Baylor)
35. Jake Cowan (RHSP – San Jacinto JC)
36. Blake Smith (OF/RHSP – California)

The first junior college player to make the list is a righty with a great frame, 95 MPH fastball, and three plus pitches. Cowan, the former Virginia recruit, will be in contention to be the first juco player picked in 2009.

37. Tyler Lyons (LHSP – Oklahoma State)
38. Jeff Inman (RHSP – Stanford)
39. Ryan Weber (RHSP – St. Petersburg JC)

Weber is the second junior college arm on the list, a fact worth noting because neither the aforementioned Jake Cowan or Weber is Daniel Webb. Webb, the consensus top junior college talent, failed to crack the top fifty. Blazing fastball or not, he was just too raw a prospect for our tastes.

40. Micah Gibbs (C – Louisiana State)
41. Matt Thomson (RHSP – San Diego)
42. Brad Boxberger (RHRP – Southern California)
43. Tommy Medica (C – Santa Clara)
44. Brad Stillings (RHSP – Kent State)
45. Steve Fischback (RHRP – Cal Poly)
46. Nick Hernandez (LHSP – Tennessee)
47. Gavin Brooks (LHSP – UCLA)
48. Jordan Henry (OF – Mississippi)
49. David Hale (RHSP – Princeton)
50. Ben Paulsen (1B – Clemson)

And that’s 50. Not a very inspiring last group, but, let’s be real, it’s not a very exciting year for high-end college talent. I think I picked the wrong year to start doing this…

Check back all weekend long for occasional updates on college baseball’s opening weekend.

All Draft-Eligible Sophomore Team

We’ve covered the 2011 freshmen. We’ve covered the 2010 sophomores. We’ve even dipped our toe into the 2009 college draft pool by looking at a few of the top seniors eligible to be picked four months from now. Time to finally dive right in and take a look at some potential impact talents available to your favorite team this June. Draft-eligible sophomores ready and raring to get picked in the 2009 Rule 4 Draft after the jump, but be forewarned, writeups may be more less detailed than in other classes due to the crazy amount of virtual ink expected to be spilled for these players over the next few months… (more…)