The Baseball Draft Report

Home » Posts tagged 'Sonny Gray'

Tag Archives: Sonny Gray

Oakland Athletics 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Oakland 2011 Draft Selections

Drafting a potential top of the line starter like Vanderbilt RHP Sonny Gray (7th ranked draft prospect) with the 18th overall pick is a heck of a way to kick off a draft. The A’s 2011 draft train flew right on off the track and into a puppy orphanage after that, but, to paraphrase a former Oakland great, we’re not here to talk about the past. We’ll get to the letdown that is the Oakland draft in toto later on, but it wouldn’t be right to let a bad overall haul taint the excellent first round pick. (Edit: After going through Oakland’s draft pick-by-pick, I’m not quite as down as it as I initially guessed. I still don’t like going so heavy on older depth over younger upside, but it is at least a defensible strategy. Super cheap, though.) Popular industry comps for Gray over the years focus on smaller righthanders like Roy Oswalt and Ben Sheets; my pre-draft comps to Tommy Hanson and Yovani Gallardo focused more on stuff/pro impact. I think Gray would have received the same amount of love Trevor Bauer wound up enjoying in any other non-Bauer draft year. Both guys are undersized with unorthodox deliveries and inconsistent command. Both guys also have dynamite fastball/curveball combinations, plus enough extras (Gray: change and maybe the slider; Bauer: change, slider, cutter, screwball, and splitter) to excel as a starter in professional baseball. This isn’t an argument for Gray over Bauer (heck, reading through the laundry list of pitches Bauer can turn to on any given day reminds me of Cliff Lee…needless to say, I love Bauer), but rather a comparison to show how similar the two players, one selected third overall and one that fell to the eighteenth overall pick, really are. The only thing holding back Gray from his front of the rotation destiny is the Oakland medical staff.

Vanderbilt JR RHP Sonny Gray: plus FB in mid-90s (92-97) with excellent movement; currently rarely dips below 93-96 with nice sink; 81-85 plus to plus-plus CB; average command that comes and goes; 84-87 SL can be a weapon in time; 82-85 CU slow to emerge, but now a weapon more often than not; plus athlete; 5-11, 180

While everybody was making — and wisely subsequently dismissing — Tim Lincecum comps for UCLA’s Trevor Bauer, the closest thing to the Giants star pitcher in this year’s class has always been Sonny Gray. Of course, Gray isn’t really anything like Lincecum (really, who is?), but the three biggest knocks on Lincecum coming out of Washington — control, size, and an unorthodox delivery — are all also questions that Gray will have to answer to at the next level. The inconsistent control and violence in his delivery are a tad worrisome — his size doesn’t concern me in the least — but when you have raw stuff like Gray’s, you get lots of opportunities to work through your other issues. The realistic floor here is a dominant yet occasionally frustrating to watch shutdown reliever; the ceiling is a first division top of the rotation arm. Gray reminds me a little bit of Braves starter Tommy Hanson, give or take seven inches and forty pounds. I’ve also heard a slightly more size appropriate comp (still forty pounds off, but only about a four inch height difference) of Yovani Gallardo.

I’m not quite ready to bury the Oakland draft. Southern Mississippi 3B BA Vollmuth (90th ranked draft prospect) is an unusually toolsy college prospect with high boom/bust potential. The boom is worth the bust with a third round pick. Vollmuth isn’t your typical Oakland college pick – if such a pick even exists anymore – in that he’s not a statistical darling but instead a tools gamble with above-average big league upside.

Some people believe in it, some don’t. Either way, I figured I’d pass along something two different people said to me with respect to BA Vollmuth. Two words were used to describe the Southern Mississippi shortstop: “star quality.” He has the requisite athleticism, arm, and above-average raw power to play third base in the big leagues down the line, but his loopy swing might need a tune-up at the pro level.

The scouting reports on Cal Poly OF Bobby Crocker have been all over the place, but I’m wary of a guy I think is a corner outfielder (good athlete, but too big to play up the middle) without a premium bat. Others think he’ll be good enough to stick in center with the bat and foot speed to be an offensive asset. Even though I’m not as high on Crocker as others, I have to admit a potential fourth outfielder with a shot for more is fine value (there’s that word again!) in the fourth round.

Bobby Crocker: good whole field approach at plate; poor arm limits him to LF; plus raw speed but closer to average in-game; too many K’s; arm has also been called solid; great body; great athlete; plus defender in corner, average or better in CF; plus bat speed; swing has come a long way, but still needs refining; real curious about arm…could be difference between RF and LF; 6-3, 210 pound

With some pop, a good approach to hitting, and better than average defense, Central Florida C Beau Taylor has all the makings of a well-rounded quality backup catcher.

Taylor’s scouting profile reminds me a great deal of James McCann’s – great defense, flashes of power, better than average plate discipline.

Feather River JC (CA) OF Dayton Alexander has two plus tools (speed and CF range) and the chance to hit if he hooks up with the right coaching staff. His speed would be better utilized if he was a lefthanded hitter, but sometimes you can’t have everything.

Small school senior signs don’t typically have the stuff South Dakota State RHP Blake Treinen has, but his is an unusual case. He has the size and stuff to start, but could be a late inning possibility if he stays in the bullpen. Either way, his inexperience means he’ll take some time to develop. On the plus side, however, said inexperience means he has plenty of bullets left in his right arm.

South Dakota State SR RHP Blake Treinen: 92-94 FB, 97 peak; improved SL; working on CU; improved command; 6-4, 220 pounds

Cal State Fullerton RHP Colin O’Connell got so lost in the shuffle in a stacked college rotation that, in my two week non-stop writeathon induced haze leading up to the draft, I had him mentally pegged as a short righthander with plus command in my head. I think I probably confused him with Tyler Pill. Pointless interlude aside, O’Connell is actually a strapping lad (6-6, 200 pounds) with stuff that doesn’t impress as a starter, but plays up nicely in the bullpen.

After his eye poppingly awesome summer playing in the West Coast League, Oakland made every attempt (update: or not! Check the comments section for a clarification on this) to sign Southridge HS (OR) LHP Jace Fry, but ultimately came up short. They’ll be kicking themselves for not laying the groundwork on a deal before he blew up for a long time. Lefties with plus fastball velocity and plus sliders are worth spending a little extra cheddar on. I’ve heard rumors that he’s shown good feel for a changeup in bullpen sessions; if that pitch becomes a weapon, Fry could have top of the rotation upside.

Fresno State OF Dusty Robinson has huge raw power and just enough speed, arm, and athleticism to hold his own in right field. Too many empty swings keeps me from endorsing him as a bona fide future big league starter, but he has the talent to slot in nicely as a big league  bench thumper someday. I don’t buy the talk that he can play up the middle one bit, for what it’s worth.

Davidson LHP Chris Lamb (Round 11) has LOOGY with the chance for more written all over him (note: not literally as that would be one super weird tattoo). I saw him this year and came away very impressed with both his curve and splitter (redundantly I described both as “nasty” in my notes), as well as his control. Lamb isn’t a junkballing lefty per se, but his fastball is easily the least impressive pitch of his three-pitch mix.

North Carolina A&T OF Xavier Macklin (Round 12) is a sensational athlete who made a pretty shocking (in a good way) leap between his freshman and sophomore seasons, especially in terms of plate discipline. He has the speed to handle center, as well as the arm/power upside to move to right if necessary. He has as much upside as any freshly minted Oakland college hitter this side of BA Vollmuth.

[great athlete; big jump in plate discipline freshman to sophomore season; CF speed; raw, but plus makeup]

Mercer 3B Jacob Tanis (Round 13) and Stetson C Nick Rickles (Round 14) are a pair of small school standouts who look to make good on the bright stage that is low-level minor league baseball. While not being particularly fleet of foot, Tanis is a good enough athlete that he could be tried at multiple spots on the diamond, including behind the plate. Rickles, a catcher by trade, is a better version of Beau Taylor. He has the chance to exceed Taylor’s ceiling (backup catcher) and emerge as a good, cheap, young starting catcher at the big league level. It also isn’t out of the question that one day Taylor (a lefty) and Rickles (a righty) are both on the big league roster in some sort of platoon but not quite a platoon (this assumes Rickles winds up the better overall player, as I do) situation.

Tanis is an under the radar prospect who is capable of doing some good things at the next level if given the chance. His defense is good at third, his bat speed is more than adequate, and his athleticism gives him a chance to play a couple different positions in the field going forward.

The only negative I had on Rickles heading into the year was a report that his bat speed really tailed off as the year dragged on. Everything else checked out – good athleticism, a natural behind the plate with a great approach at it, and above-average power upside. Hitting close to .400 might not completely answer the bat speed question, but it is a clear step in the right direction.

Kansas RHP TJ Walz (Round 15), a long-time favorite of the Oakland scouting staff, has solid middle reliever stuff. He’s predominantly a sinker/slider guy, but enough flashes of a plus slider and sneaky hot fastball (up to94 inmy viewing) that could make him one of the better versions of the archetype. Maryland LHP Eric Potter (Round 19) is another reliever that could have gone five to ten rounds (give or take) sooner. His stuff is fine (88-92 FB, average curve and change), but his strengths (big bodied lefthander) and weaknesses (inconsistent control) are what define him best as a prospect.

Michigan State RHP Kurt Wunderlich (Round 20) and Georgia RHP Cecil Tanner (Round 23) make a fun late round pair in much the same way Oscar and Felix made for a fun pair of roommates. Wunderlich, an accomplished college arm, gets by on pitchability and command. Tanner, a disappointment at Georgia any way you slice it, has the stuff to thrive in pro ball (mid-90s fastball, good upper-70s slider) but wasn’t able to iron out his mechanics (a major factor explaining his poor command) in three years at college. Both pitchers face long odds to make it even to AA, but, forced to choose, I’ll take the guy with big league stuff.

Georgia JR RHP Cecil Tanner: 91-94 FB with sink; 96-98 peak FB; good 77 SL; below-average command; Jonathan Broxton and Bobby Jenks body comps; hasn’t ironed out mechanics in three years at Georgia; 6-6, 260

Unsigned Zionsville Community HS (IN) SS Max Kuhn (Round 24) surprised those who thought him quite signable by heading off to college with the hope of taking his advanced bat to the early rounds in 2014. Aquinas Institute (NY) SS Chris Bostick (Round 44), seen by many as a sure thing to land at St. John’s, is now one of the newest members of the Oakland Athletics. Baseball is a funny game, both on and off the diamond. A big pro start for Bostick is great to see; sure, he’s really a .442 hitter, but the hit tool is solid, he’s got speed coming out of his ears, and he’s a slightly better than 50/50 shot to stay at shortstop.

Three reasons why I like Max Kuhn: 1) his upside with the bat, 2) any early round prep prospect from Indiana is fun, and 3) baseball could use another quality Max. One of my first — and as it turns out, only — autographs came from Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Baseball, at a shoe store when I was six.

I don’t intentionally group every mid-round prospect with a partner, but the Oakland draft just lends itself to pairs. Tennessee Tech OF Chad Oberacker (Round 25) and Virginia Military Institute RHP Sam Roberts (Round 26) both come from non-traditional baseball schools. Neither player, however, lacks in talent. Oberacker is a patient hitter with a strong wood bat track record, good speed, and enough pop to keep a pitcher honest. He might be stretched a bit defensively in center, but his strong arm makes him an asset in right. Roberts was announced as a pitcher on draft day, but played shortstop for Vermont after signing. I’m not sure if this is the long-term intention or just a nice way of giving his arm a breather before heading back to the mound next year. I like him just find on the left side of the infield for now; even without a standout offensive tool, there’s enough in the total package to give him the look of a utility guy assuming the proper developmental breaks.

Tennessee Tech SR OF Chad Oberacker: good history with wood; above-average speed; decent pop; strong arm; (431/507/661 – 33 BB/24 K – 14/18 SB – 239 AB)

Roberts is a do-it-all utility player for VMI that leads off, plays short, and takes the hill every weekend as a starting pitcher. As a college player, there’s little he doesn’t do well and he’s been producing at a big time clip since first stepping on campus. He’s got just enough speed and power to be interesting on offense, and plenty of arm strength to play either spot on the left side of the infield.

After first round pick Sonny Gray, Harvard RHP Max Perlman (Round 35) might be the best known name to prospect fans that don’t care too much about amateur ball. Perlman made the leap from Harvard to Rookie League all the way to AAA Sacramento for two solid starts all in the matter of ten weeks. I also could have sworn he threw a no-hitter after signing, but five minutes of Google leave me with nothing but regret for five minutes I’ll never get back. No-hitter or not, Perlman had a great pro debut. I’m bummed I never wrote him up, especially considering my strange fascination with the Ivies. Apologies to Perlman, Vince Voiro (Penn), Dan Bracey (Columbia), and all of the other Ivy League players I neglected this spring.

I’ll spare you any of the dumb jokes that come to mind and just share Oakland’s final selection in the 2011 MLB Draft: Cypress JC (CA) RHP Travis Pitcher (Round 50).

Because I don’t want to go out on that note, I’ll instead close with something sad. Elon RHP Thomas Girdwood (Round 28) turned down the Twins as a fifteenth rounder last year. He returned to Elon for a senior year only to fall in the draft and eventually get his meager senior signing bonus voided due to injury. He has the plus fastball/plus slider (92-95 FB, 82-84 SL) mix to possibly make it as a reliever, if he can get healthy and land on his feet somewhere.

2011 College World Series Preview: Vanderbilt Commodores

The second team to get the full College World Series preview is your Vanderbilt Commodores. The setup up for this is about as simple as can be: first category is for players drafted in 2011, second category is for players eligible for the 2012 draft, and the last category is for, you guessed it, players eligible for the 2013 draft. 

1.18 JR RHP Sonny Gray (Oakland Athletics) | 7th ranked prospect overall

plus FB in mid-90s (92-97) with excellent movement; currently rarely dips below 93-96 with nice sink; 81-85 plus to plus-plus CB; average command that comes and goes; 84-87 SL can be a weapon in time; 82-85 CU slow to emerge, but now a weapon more often than not; plus athlete; 5-11, 180

While everybody was making — and wisely subsequently dismissing — Tim Lincecum comps for UCLA’s Trevor Bauer, the closest thing to the Giants star pitcher in this year’s class has always been Sonny Gray. Of course, Gray isn’t really anything like Lincecum (really, who is?), but the three biggest knocks on Lincecum coming out of Washington — control, size, and an unorthodox delivery — are all also questions that Gray will have to answer to at the next level. The inconsistent control and violence in his delivery are a tad worrisome — his size doesn’t concern me in the least — but when you have raw stuff like Gray’s, you get lots of opportunities to work through your other issues. The realistic floor here is a dominant yet occasionally frustrating to watch shutdown reliever; the ceiling is a first division top of the rotation arm. Gray reminds me a little bit of Braves starter Tommy Hanson, give or take seven inches and forty pounds. I’ve also heard a slightly more size appropriate comp (still forty pounds off, but only about a four inch height difference) of Yovani Gallardo.

1.59 JR LHP Grayson Garvin (Tampa Bay Rays) | 79th ranked prospect overall

started 87-89 FB, 90-91 peak; sitting 89-92 now, 93-95 peak; good FB command; 70-73 CB with upside if thrown harder; now up to 73-75 and above-average pitch; average 77-80 CU with room for improvement, could be plus in time; cutter; SL; good athlete; outstanding control; 6-6, 220

Garvin is a classic pitchability lefty (love his FB command and overall control) who has just so happened to grow into above-average velocity from the left side. He doesn’t have a pitch that is a consistent out pitch, but both his curve and change flash above-average enough to give him the upside of a back of the rotation arm.

2.64 JR 3B Jason Esposito (Baltimore Orioles) | 55th ranked prospect overall

Esposito’s defense is big league ready, and his hit tool, raw power, and speed all grade out as average future tools at the next level. I swear I was ready to mention Matt Dominguez as a potential comp before reading Baseball America beat me to the punch, but it is a good enough comp that I don’t mind repeating it.

If my instincts count for anything, allow me to go on record as a believer in Esposito. As impressive a college career as he has had so far, I think he goes on to show more at the next level with the bat. Additionally, while his glove at third may not be Adrian Beltre good, he has the chance to be a top five defensive third baseman in the big leagues in very short order. That glove alone will give him very good value for a Baltimore team stocked with a bunch of interesting young arms.

3.99 JR RHP Jack Armstrong (Houston Astros) | 49th ranked prospect overall

91-93 FB sitting, 94-97 peak; 80-82 flashes plus CU; 81-82 CB with promise but slow to develop due to injuries; clean mechanics; finally healthy, CB better than ever; 6-7, 230 pounds

Sometimes it really is as simple as throwing away the performance aspect and looking at raw stuff. Armstrong’s track record on the mound doesn’t make him a top 100 pick (or a top 50 prospect on my pre-draft list), but his raw stuff ranks up there with almost anybody’s. Injury concerns could have Houston looking at Armstrong as a future reliever, but I’d love to see the big guy get a chance to start.

3.106 SR 1B Aaron Westlake (Detroit Tigers) | 126th ranked prospect overall

Westlake is going to hit as a professional, I’m sure of that much. Will he hit enough to hold down an everyday job at first? That’s the million dollar question, I suppose. He should be able to hit well enough against righthanded pitchers to at least work his way into a platoon role down the line. It could also be possible that his drafting team gets creativity with him, and tries him at a few different spots (corner OF, maybe a little third, perhaps some time behind the plate) a la Baltimore’s Jake Fox.

There isn’t much to add about Westlake that hasn’t already been said. He has one clear big league tool (power), but is held back by the position he plays. If he hits, he’ll make it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. There is no safety net. In the meantime, sit back and watch Westlake terrorize college pitching one last time in Omaha.

3.117 SO LHP Corey Williams (Minnesota Twins)

Williams as a top ten round pick would have surprised me, so his selection in the third had me perplexed. He has a good arm with the chance to consistently hit the mid-90s with some added strength, but it takes a pretty big leap of faith to use a third rounder on an untested relief prospect. As someone who knows a thing or two about jacked up kneecaps, I’ll definitely be rooting for Williams from now on. The question of whether or not I’ll be rooting him on as a member of the Twins organization or as a student at Vanderbilt remains to be answered. There is no reason to think he wouldn’t sign this year — hard to see him rising above third round money next year — but I only count six certainties on next year’s Vanderbilt pitching staff. The opportunity to come back and perhaps pitch in a more prestigious role could appeal to him.

6.187 SR RHP Taylor Hill (Washington Nationals) | 224th ranked prospect overall

88-91 FB with plus sink, 93-94 peak that I’ve seen with my own two eyes, have heard rumors of him hitting 95; 79-85 plus SL; very good 78-83 sinking CU also called a splitter; mechanics need smoothing out; 6-4, 225 pounds

Read that quick scouting report of Taylor Hill above and then check out where I ranked him on my pre-draft board. Pretty low for a pitcher of this caliber, right? Part of that can be explained by the unusually strong draft class, especially in terms of pitching depth. However, part of it can also be explained by me underrating one heck of a quality prospect.

6.206 SR RHP Mark Lamm (Atlanta Braves)

My notes on Lamm were short and sweet: 90-94 FB; Tommy John survivor. The development of a pair of above-average offspeed pitches — a slider and a change — got him drafted way ahead of where I would have guessed. He’s up there as one of the top senior signs around and could be a quick mover through the system.

10.317 SR C Curt Casali (Detroit Tigers) | 87th ranked prospect overall

Every game Casali plays is one game further removed from 2009 Tommy John surgery. The difference it has made in his defense behind the plate (more than just big league ready – he’d be in the upper half defensively of pro catchers) and his offense at the plate (near-plus raw power and a phenomenal whole field approach) give him the look of a future big leaguer to me. It is a rare senior that warrants draft consideration before round five, but Casali is an exception. Love this guy.

If I was a betting man, I’d be happy to put down a cool five bucks on Curt Casali reaching the big leagues in some capacity before too long. There are some really iffy big league catchers This will be the last time I open up the old SEC catcher debate from earlier in the year, so let me get this last shot in: Casali will have a better professional career than the catcher the Tigers first 2011 draft selection, Arkansas C James McCann.

14.446 JR RHP Navery Moore (Atlanta Braves) | 131st ranked prospect overall

92-96 plus FB, 99 peak; plus 81-84 SL that comes and goes; flashes plus CB; iffy control; Tommy John survivor; very occasional CU; “Intergalactic” is his closer music; has the stuff to start, but teams might not risk it from a health and delivery standpoint; 6-2, 205

Moore’s velocity was down late in the year. That’s a significant problem when your most marketable skill is a big fastball. That said, I still think he’s a good bet to settle in as a big league reliever some day due to his good athleticism and above-average raw stuff. The drop in velocity has to be addressed, however, whether or not it turns to be a mere matter of fatigue (treatment: rest, rest, more rest…and perhaps a tweak or two to his delivery) or a more serious health concern (treatment: shut him down, get him to a top surgeon, and hope he comes out healthy on the other side).

30.928 SO RHP Will Clinard (Minnesota Twins)

Clinard is similar to Corey Williams in that both are redshirt sophomore pitchers drafted by the Minnesota Twins. Clinard’s numbers across the board were more impressive than Williams, but you can’t just beat a high velocity lefthander, I suppose. I’m personally not so sure that I don’t prefer the big (6-4, 225) athletic righthander with the low-90s fastball and potential plus breaking ball. While it seems likely Williams will be offered enough to forgo his last two seasons of college eligibility, Clinard would probably need overslot money to head to the pros. If one of Ziomek, Pecoraro, or Selman get hurt and/or pitch below expectations, Clinard has the stuff to potentially sneak into a weekend starter’s gig.

46.1384 JR OF Joe Loftus (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Not sure how signable Loftus is as a 46th rounder because his blend of arm strength, athleticism, and untapped raw power make him an unusually talented late round pick. If he returns to school, he could easily jump up 25+ rounds with a big senior season.

*****

JR C Drew Fann (2012)

Fann isn’t an early round candidate, but the demand for quality catch-and-throw prospects could get him drafted as a late round senior sign in 2012. The Vanderbilt catching job is up for grabs heading into next year, and it would come as no surprise if Fann took the job with a strong fall. I should point out that I’ve read that Fann is a senior who is exhausted his eligibility on a few Vanderbilt-specific sites, but the official Vandy website has him listed as a redshirt junior. In other words, I don’t know what’s going on with Fann, but the possibility exists that I just spent 117 words on an undrafted player without any more college eligibility .

JR 2B Riley Reynolds (2012) | .356/.407/.403 – 11 BB/19 K – 4/4 SB – 149 AB

I’m really surprised that Reynolds didn’t get drafted based on the strength of his solid freshman and junior seasons. His sophomore season was disappointing, no doubt, but at his best he has shown himself to be an average middle infield bat with a very steady glove at second. If he can play competently on the left side of the diamond — something that remains to be seen — then he’ll profile as a potential 2012 late round utility prospect.

SO SS Sam Lind (2012) | .239/.315/.391 – 3 BB/10 K – 46 AB

Lind has bounced from Missouri to Central Arizona to Vanderbilt. Alright, that’s a lie. He was draft eligible this past year, but didn’t hear his name called on the conference call. A second year in one place should do the middle infield with a strong arm and above-average hit tool some good. He was a personal favorite of mine heading into the year (15th on my preseason college shortstop list), so the pressure will really be on if he wants to get back into my good graces. That is what these guys are playing for, right? My approval? Not the fame, money, girls, and love of the game, but the respect of some nobody on the internet that they’ll never meet? Alright, good, just making sure.

SO LHP Sam Selman (2012)

There are way too many teams and players for me to keep track of everybody and everything quite the way I’d like to. The case of Sam Selman exemplifies the limits of my coverage. In doing research for this very piece, I checked out Selman’s 2011 stats, excited to see what kind of numbers a player with a potential plus fastball (mid-90s peak), plus slider, and promising changeup (per my notes) put up. Selman threw a whopping 6.1 innings last year. Based on the reports I had on him from his high school/early Vanderbilt days, some major injury must have popped up for Selman in 2011 to limit his innings that drastically, I thought. Not so fast, my friend. Selman’s lack of work can be traced to an overcrowded (in the best possible way) Vanderbilt pitching staff and a somewhat disappointingly slow transition to the college game, most notably from a strength standpoint. His string bean 6-3, 170 pound physique has not yet proven to be reliable enough to handle any kind of real innings workload and his control has kept him from being able to effectively utilize his array of promising pitches.

Even with all of those negatives disclosed, I’m still pleased to go on record as a huge Sam Selman fan. The fact I think he has the talent to rocket up from 6.1 innings as a sophomore to the 2012 first round pretty much says it all. Command and conditioning issues aside, there has been no degradation of Selman’s pro quality three-pitch arsenal. If he can lock down a weekend job this fall, watch how high he’ll fly up draft boards next spring.

SO OF Connor Harrell (2012) | .288/.354/.492 – 13 BB/38 K – 7/7 SB – 177 AB

As a legit five-tool player with pro size teetering on the edge of solid defensive center fielder and plus defensive corner outfielder, Harrell has a little Mikie Mahtook in his game. That probably won’t be the only time I use the Mahtook comp this upcoming year — Stanford’s Jake Stewart is another player cut from a similar toolsy free wheeling tweener cloth — and it isn’t the most instructive comparison in the world, but it is both a point of reference for Harrell’s style of play and a way to share my generally positive view of what I think he is capable of doing next spring. I’m a huge fan of Harrell’s plus arm, good range, well above-average raw power, and opportunistic ways on the base paths. If he can turn those ugly plate discipline ratios around, he’ll vault close to the top of the 2012 college outfield class.

SO OF Michael Yastrzemski (2012) | .311/.445/.388 – 44 BB/35 K – 23/26 SB – 206 AB

After already typing Michael Yastrzemski’s last name out incorrectly more than a few times, I can appreciate the first brilliant person who called his more famous grandfather “Yaz.” The younger Yaz is another five-tool talent, though more of a speed/defense/leadoff hitter type than his more powerful outfield wingman Connor Harrell. I swear it isn’t because of the similarly impressive lineage (or at least not only because), but I think of Michael Yastrzemski as a similar ballplayer as Orioles eighth round pick Johnny Ruettiger.

SO SS Anthony Gomez (2012) | .350/.366/.408 – 8 BB/12 K – 7/9 SB – 260 AB

What Gomez lacks in tools, he makes up for in his ability to make a crazy amount of contact. The contact is nice, but the unimpressive tool set keeps him from being much more than a marginal pro prospect. To wit, his defense up the middle isn’t yet good enough to have anybody believing his glove will carry him, and his foot speed is average at best.

SO OF Regan Flaherty (2012)

Never bet against a Flaherty, I always say. Actually I’ve never said that before just now, but it’s still true. The biggest problem facing Flaherty heading into next season will be finding playing time in a crowded Commodores outfield; he could see some time at first or designated hitter to get his bat in the lineup.

FR LHP Keenan Kolinsky (2012): 6-1, 210

Kolinsky, a redshirt freshman, hasn’t done a whole lot yet with Vanderbilt, but could see major innings out of the bullpen in 2012. He throws a solid upper-80s fastball and is a good athlete, so, hey, he’s got that going for him.

*****

FR LHP Kevin Ziomek (2013) | 9.67 K/9 – 2.82 BB/9 – 3.40 FIP – 44.2 IP

I’m not so bold to say Ziomek is going to follow in the footsteps of previous Vanderbilt lefthanders David Price (1st overall) and Mike Minor (7th overall) and land in the draft’s top ten, but the fact that the thought even crossed my mind in the first place tells you plenty about Ziomek’s upside. Ziomek is predominantly a fastball/changeup pitcher, throwing the former between 91-94 MPH and the latter in the low-80s. His much improved curve and slider run into each other a bit too much velocity-wise now that that his curve has gained some heat, but right now the slider is the better pitch and a potential above-average big league offering. The whole package — good fastball, potential plus change, above-average slider, an interesting curve, and good athleticism — is first round quality.

FR RHP TJ Pecoraro (2013) | 9.76 K/9 – 2.72 BB/9 – 3.43 FIP – 39.2 IP

The similarities between the 2011 statistical lines of Pecoraro and Ziomek are striking, no? Pecoraro doesn’t quite have the scouting profile of Ziomek — few do — but is no slouch in the raw ability department. He is armed with a really good low-90s fastball (94 peak) with late life and two potential above-average offspeed pitches (curve and change). Short righthanders like Pecoraro will be my favorite undervalued draft asset until those in pro ball catch on. A torn elbow ligament in May puts a damper on his short-term outlook, but he remains a viable early round candidate for 2013.

FR 1B/OF Conrad Gregor (2013) | .351/.454/.464 – 29 BB/23 K – 151 AB

We knew Gregor had huge raw power. We didn’t know his freshman year approach would be so solid. I might seem overly optimistic on all of the players mentioned in the College World Series prospect series, but you have to remember this is an unusually talented CWS group. Gregor has that plus raw power, a potential plus hit tool, outstanding defense at first and average defense in an outfield corner, a strong throwing arm…in other words, just about everything you’d want in a prospect. Aaron Westlake went in the third round this year; it’ll be interesting to see if Gregor, a better player at this point in his development, can improve on that in two years.

FR OF Tony Kemp (2013) | .328/.431/.406 – 33 BB/29 K – 16/20 SB – 229 AB

If any less heralded player is going to steal the spotlight this weekend in Omaha, it’ll be Kemp. The diminutive freshman is a huge fan favorite due to his plus-plus speed, ridiculous range in center field, and keen awareness of the strike zone. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he progresses over the next two seasons, especially at the plate. I mentioned to a guy int he know that Kemp reminded me a bit of Ronnie Richardson, but was told the better comp was Mike Bourn.

FR SS Joel McKeithan (2013)

Objectivity is important, no doubt, but sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and just go with a guy you like. Joel McKeithan is that kind of guy for me. He is currently expected to fill a utility infielder role for the 2012 Vanderbilt squad, but I can easily envision his plus speed and plus defensive tools at short earning him time over Anthony Gomez at short. The little bit I saw of him in high school plus the positive college practice reports equal a potential big league starting shortstop in my mind.

FR RHP Robert Hansen (2013)

Hansen was given a redshirt this year to help space out some of Vanderbilt’s young pitching. He has a good low-90s fastball and an emerging low-80s slider.

FR LHP Steven Rice (2013)

Rice’s curve was one of the better breaking balls in the 2010 high school class. That pitch alone makes him an interesting prospect despite a fastball that only sits between 86-88 MPH.

FR C Spencer Navin (2013)

Navin’s glovework and plus arm should get him into the regular lineup as early as next season, but his bat is far from a sure thing.

FR OF Will Johnson (2013)

Johnson is a great athlete who is still working on the finer points of the game. Minimalist commentary like that is why it will forever be free to read this site…

Three More Quick Thoughts on College Baseball’s Third Weekend

1. The elite college pitching is really hard to keep up with. On Friday night, the trio of Andrew Chafin (10 K’s), Gerrit Cole (8), and Tyler Anderson (14) combined to total 24 innings of shutout, 9-hit baseball between them. Not to be outdone, Sonny Gray (9 IP 3 H 1 ER 0 BB 15 K) and Danny Hultzen (7 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 11 K) also dominated in their Friday night matchups. Hultzen, the early favorite for the Golden Spikes Award, helped himself at the plate and on the base paths yet again, this time by walking three times and stealing two bases. On the year he has allowed 9 base runners in 20.2 innings on the mound while reaching base twice as often (13 hits and 5 walks in just over 40 plate appearances) at the plate. On the other end of the spectrum, it was disappointing to see Nick Tropeano struggle a little bit on the big stage against North Carolina, but, in what could be definitely be considered a silver lining (or grasping for straws at a really tiny sample size), he did manage to keep UNC’s best hitter Levi Michael quiet. Also disappointed to see Taylor Jungmann throw 120 pitches. I’ve been hesitant to downgrade Jungmann, but, in a year with so many premium college arms tightly bunched at the top, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility to see Jungmann dip below similarly, or in some cases slightly less, talented arms with more favorable college usage patterns.

2. Remember Player A from Friday? The guy who fit the following description: potential plus hit tool; line drive machine; gap power upside; leadoff man profile with above-average speed and good plate discipline; solid defender in CF; average at best throwing arm that grades out higher in terms of accuracy than strength; good track record with wood; great athlete with a pro body; 6-2, 175 pounds? That guy? His line for the weekend (6-9, BB, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 SB, K) fit in nicely with his scouting report. 6 hits, all singles. Player B, meanwhile, was described like this: great physical strength; plus raw power; plus bat speed; average speed; average arm; good range in a corner; pitch recognition, or lack thereof, could make or break him; 6-2, 195 pounds. His line (7-12, 2 HR, 3B, 2B, BB, 6 RBI, 4 R, 2 SB, K) was also in line with the scouting reports (especially the power outburst), except with improved plate discipline. All in all, good weekends for both Johnny Ruettiger and Jason Coats.

3. No rhyme or reason behind the methodology of choosing players for this list, other than the desire of wanting to spotlight batting lines that intrigued me enough to jot down. As a draft-eligible sophomore coming off of an uninspiring freshman campaign, Andrew Susac was a prime “wait and see” player for me heading into 2011. It is still early, but, man, it is easy to like what the guy has done so far. All stats are from the weekend of 3/4 to 3/6…

  • Oregon State SO C Andrew Susac (7-13, 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, 8 RBI, 9 R)
  • Bethune Cookman JR C Peter O’Brien (6-11, 2 HR, 2B, 6 RBI, 4 R, K)
  • Connecticut JR SS Nick Ahmed (4-5, HR, BB, RBI, 3 R, 2 SB on Saturday followed by 0-4 on Sunday)
  • St. John’s JR SS Joe Panik (7-11, 2B, 4 BB, 4 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB, K)
  • Virginia JR LHP/1B Danny Hultzen (2-4, 3B, 4 BB, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 SB)
  • LSU JR OF Mikie Mahtook (3-9, HR, 2B, 4 BB, RBI, 5 R, 3 SB, 2 K)
  • Oregon State SO OF Garrett Nash (5-12, 2B, 2 BB, 4 RBI, 9 R, 3 HBP, 2 SB, K)
  • Rice JR OF Jeremy Rathjen (4-12, 2 2B, BB, 3 RBI, SB, K)

Another draft-eligible Oregon State sophomore is primed to rise up draft boards if he can keep stringing together weekends like this past weekend’s. The biggest questions Nash needed to answer this spring surrounded his hit tool and the early returns, from a scouting perspective anyway, are positive enough. The big weekend only brought his season line up to .200/.409/.233, but the plus-plus speed and potential for plus defense in center remain strong points in his favor.

Quick Statistical Look at 2011 MLB Draft Pitching Prospects

In absolutely no particular order, 2011 draft prospects that finished last season with over 10 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, minimum 50 total innings pitched. For reference’s sake, prospects expected to go in the top three rounds are in bold…

Kentucky JR RHP Alex Meyer

Missouri State JR RHP Dan Kickham

Cal State Fullerton JR RHP Noe Ramirez

Virginia SR RHP Tyler Wilson

Maryland SR RHP Brett Harman

Vanderbilt JR RHP Sonny Gray

Texas A&M JR RHP John Stilson

Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann

Baylor JR RHP Logan Verrett

UCLA JR RHP Gerrit Cole

UCLA JR RHP Trevor Bauer

Washington JR RHP Andrew Kittredge

Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley

Virginia JR LHP/1B Danny Hultzen

Mississippi JR LHP Matt Crouse

Stanford JR LHP Brett Mooneyham

Arizona State JR LHP Mitchell Lambson

TCU SO LHP Matt Purke

Northeastern JR LHP Andrew Leenhouts

GO/AO Data Update – May 20, 2010

The plan is to start with pitchers who took the mound last Friday night and update the rest of the weekend totals throughout the day. No special order to the pitchers listed, just throwing them up based on where their name falls on my spreadsheet. GO/AO data has now been updated to include all starts (when applicable) through May 20, 2010.

Missouri JR RHP Nick Tepesch: 54%
Louisville JR RHP Thomas Royse: 53%
Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz: 47%
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale: 61%
LSU JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo: 37%
Georgia Tech JR RHP Deck McGuire: 49%
Notre Dame JR RHP Brian Dupra: 61%

Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray: 70% (!)
UCLA SO RHP Gerrit Cole: 53%
Stanford SO LHP Brett Mooneyham: 61%
TCU FR LHP Matt Purke: 63%
Kentucky FR LHP Taylor Rogers: 56%
TCU SO RHP Kyle Winkler: 54%

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

Data – Friday Night Starting Pitchers

Something about Clemson’s Friday night lineup caught my eye recently. Anything about the following configuration of names look unusual?

Chris Epps
Mike Freeman
Jeff Schaus
Kyle Parker
Wilson Boyd
John Hinson
Brad Miller
John Nester
Will Lamb
Casey Harman

No? How about when you look at it from the official Clemson baseball website? Anything?

It is entirely likely that I’m 100% insane, but the way the names are configured in that lineup is just a little bit too perfect. You could draw a line down the right side of the last names and almost get a perfectly straight line. It would look darn near perfect if not for Mike Freeman near the top and starting pitcher Casey Harman at the bottom; their names each have 11 letters total, first and last.

The entire lineup in total letters (first and last name, including the pitcher):

9 – 11 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 10 – 8 – 11

The third through eighth batters in the lineup all have exactly ten letters in their names! Amazing!

It’s the little things in life we find amusing sometimes, right? Thank you all for humoring me, now please do enjoy some exclusive ground out percentages from a sampling of college baseball’s finest Friday night starting pitchers.

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

***

North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey – 69%
Notre Dame JR RHP Brian Dupra – 65%
Miami JR LHP Chris Hernandez – 64%
Kentucky JR LHP Logan Darnell – 64%
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale – 62%
Mississippi JR LHP Drew Pomeranz – 52%
Tennessee JR LHP Bryan Morgado – 51%
Ohio State JR RHP Alex Wimmers – 50%
San Diego JR RHP Kyle Blair – 50%
Georgia JR RHP Justin Grimm – 46%
Missouri JR RHP Nick Tepesch – 45%
Louisiana State JR RHP Anthony Ranaudo – 41%

***

Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray – 72%
Texas SO RHP Taylor Jungmann – 69%
UCLA SO RHP Gerrit Cole – 59%
Rice SO LHP Taylor Wall – 55%

Data, Data, Data 2 – Revenge of the Worm Killers

Yesterday we looked at some of the flyballiest of college baseball’s most flyballing flyball pitchers. Today, the opposite. I limited it to potential first round candidates only, but now feel guilty about leaving out other strong groundball pitchers like Miami’s Chris Hernandez (68%), Cal’s Dixon Anderson (67%), and Florida State’s John Gast (70%). With that out of the way and my guilt finally assuaged, here are five potential first round starting pitchers with groundball percentages greater than 50%…

North Carolina JR RHP Matt Harvey – 78%

Florida Gulf Coast JR LHP Chris Sale – 67%

Texas Tech JR RHP Chad Bettis – 75%

Texas JR RHP Brandon Workman – 62%

Virginia Tech JR RHP Jesse Hahn – 71%

And a pair of top-five 2011 prospects because it’s Friday…

Texas SO RHP Taylor Jungmann – 75%

Vanderbilt SO RHP Sonny Gray – 71%

2011 MLB Draft Prospect: UCLA RHSP Gerrit Cole – Proceed With Caution

UCLA SO RHP Gerrit Cole (2011) is obviously a sensational prospect, as most pitchers with three potential big league plus pitches tend to be. His recent outing against fellow top 2011 prospect Sonny Gray of Vanderbilt had scouts buzzing, but maybe not for the reasons that first come to mind. True, his performance against a quality Commodores’ lineup was impressive (5 IP 4 H 2 ER 2 BB 8 K), and his stuff (sitting FB at 92-95, explosive peak FB at 97-99; plus 81-87 SL, excellent 83-84 CU) was as good as advertised. The following, however, was what got those in attendance really talking:

Vanderbilt 1st – Harris hit by pitch (1-1). Esposito hit by pitch (3-2); Harris advanced to second. Westlake struck out swinging (1-2). Giobbi reached on a fielding error by 3b (1-1); Esposito advanced to second; Harris advanced to third, out at home ss unassisted. Casali hit by pitch (1-1); Giobbi advanced to second; Esposito advanced to third. Reynolds struck out swinging (1-2). 0 runs, 0 hits, 1 error, 3 LOB.

Harris, boof! Esposito, powie! Casali, vronk! Putting people on base is not a good thing for a pitcher to do, a simple fact that even Batman himself (ZGRUPPP! was always my favorite) couldn’t argue with. And I promise this isn’t a random thought brought on by a sudden irrational burst of machismo or anything like that. No, it’s about the way Cole went about establishing the inner half of the plate in the early stages of a big game. That can be something that separates a really good pitching prospect from a special one. Cole is clearly a special prospect whether or not he goes out and plunks three batters in the top of the first like he did last Friday, but it’s a comfort to know that he’s fearless pitching around the plate.

2010 College Baseball’s Second Weekend Kicks Off

61 pages. 18,962 words. That’s the current status of my “College Draft Notes” Word document that I’m soon ready to unleash to the general public. I only really mention it because last night, at around the 18,000 word mark, Word stopped working for a moment to send me a notice saying the automatic spell check feature had to be disabled due to the excessive length of the document. Needless to say, that was a first for me and, for some reason, I really got a kick out of it. Anyway…

Sonny Gray v Gerrit Cole on tap tonight. That’s pretty damn exciting. I remember liking Gray over Cole when they were high schoolers, but the development of Cole’s secondary stuff has been nothing short of amazing. As outstanding as the 2011 draft class is shaping up to be, I’d still bet good money that the real debate at the top will come down to Rendon v Cole. Battle lines will be drawn, prospect ideologies will be tested, brother will oppose brother…all because of the soon to be raging Rendon v Cole debate. Anyway, again…

Some of the best of the best college baseball has to offer in the second weekend of the season. Some of the biggies are abundently clear like Vanderbilt @ UCLA, Stanford @ Texas, and Texas Christian @ Cal State Fullerton, but some upset specials could be on the forecast in series such as Maine @ North Carolina, Wright State @ Clemson, Elon @ Rice, and Texas State @ Baylor. Other intriguing matchups (mainly listed for prospect watching reasons) include Louisville v Michigan, South Carolina @ East Carolina, James Madison @ Coastal Carolina, Tennessee @ Oregon State, Oklahoma v Valparaiso, South Florida v Ohio State, San Diego State @ San Diego, Boston College @ Auburn, St. John’s v Minnesota, Notre Dame v Illinois, Kent State @ Wake Forest, Ohio @ Middle Tennessee State, and Oregon @ Hawaii.

College Baseball Opening Night 2010 – Friday Starters

“Big” Name 2010s

Georgia Tech JR RHSP Deck McGuire – 7 IP 5 H 0 ER 0 BB 10 K
Florida Gulf Coast JR LHSP Chris Sale – 2 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 2 K
LSU JR RHSP Anthony Ranaudo – 5 IP 1 H 0 ER 2 BB 6 K
North Carolina JR RHSP Matt Harvey – 5.2 IP 5 H 3 ER 2 BB 3 K
Ohio State JR RHSP Alex Wimmers – 6 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 9 K
Georgia Tech JR RHRP Kevin Jacob – 1 IP 0 H 0 ER 0 BB 3 K
Mississippi JR LHSP Drew Pomeranz – 4 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 7 K
Georgia JR RHSP Justin Grimm – 5 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 6 K
Tennessee JR LHSP Bryan Morgado – 5 IP 4 H 3 ER 2 BB 6 K
Baylor JR RHSP Shawn Tolleson – 6 IP 5 H 3 ER 3 BB 11 K

Not really a bad line out of the entire Opening Night starter bunch, I’d say. Pomeranz’s command was shaky, Ranaudo’s stuff wasn’t as sharp as it could have been, and Harvey was all over the place with his control, but, all in all, a darn fine night for college baseball’s aces.

*** Sale only pitched two innings because he’s being saved for this upcoming Wednesday’s huge game at Miami. He was incredibly sharp in this one, hitting the mid-90s with regularity. Sale vs Miami is shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated early season mid-week games in recent memory.

*** Baseball America had Harvey sitting 92-94, touching 96. Lack of control or not, that kind of velocity this early in the season is an excellent sign for Harvey, a pitcher with a history of inconsistent radar gun readings.

*** Best publicly available groundout ratios of the night belong to Harvey (10/1 ground out to air out ratio) and Wimmers (7/1). Use that information anyway you see fit.

“Lesser” Name 2010s

San Diego SR RHSP AJ Griffin – 6 IP 6 H 4 ER 0 BB 8 K
East Carolina JR RHSP Seth Maness – 5.2 IP 6 H 4 ER 1 BB 4 K
Notre Dame JR RHSP Cole Johnson – 5.1 IP 5 H 2 ER 0 BB 2 K
Virginia JR RHRP Tyler Wilson – 3 IP 2 H 0 ER 2 BB 4 K
Clemson JR LHSP Casey Harman – 5 IP 1 H 0 ER 1 BB 3 K
Louisville JR RHSP Thomas Royse – 5 IP 2 H 0 ER 0 BB 5 K
Arkansas SR RHSP Michael Bolsinger 5 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 6 K
Florida JR RHSP Tommy Toledo – 3.1 IP 3 H 0 ER 2 BB 4 K (WP, 2 HBP)

*** Griffin had a bizarre 1/9 ground out to air out ratio. I’m almost positive Griffin was a significant groundball pitcher last year, so it’ll be interesting to see if this one start was an aberration or the start of a larger trend.

*** Johnson has a solid reputation and good stuff, but he still hasn’t been able to harness his natural talents to dominate at the college level. The solid line he put up on Friday is indicative of his college performance thus far. Steady results, uninspiring strikeout numbers.

*** Wilson is coming out of the bullpen because Virginia has a pitching staff that rivals that of some minor league teams, but his stuff is good enough to start professionally. He’s a top ten round player.

“Big” Name 2011s

Vanderbilt SO RHSP Sonny Gray 8 IP 3 H 0 ER 1 BB 8 K
UCLA SO RHSP Gerrit Cole – 6 IP 1 H 2 ER 0 BB 9 K
Texas SO RHSP Taylor Jungmann – 7 IP 7 H 1 ER 1 BB 8 K
Virginia SO LHSP Danny Hultzen – 6 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 4 K
Kentucky SO RHSP Alex Meyer – 5 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 8 K

Totals: 32 IP 19 H 7 ER 8 BB 37 K

Those five 2011 arms are something special. I’ve been toying with a 2011 Mock Draft for a couple of days and every time I do a rough sketch of the first ten to fifteen picks or so, all of the names above appear…but each time I do it, I come up with a new order. I think I like them in the order I have them above, but that’ll change, oh, about ten thousand times between now and next June.

The GO/AO numbers for the quintet: Jungmann – 9/1, Cole – 7/2, Hultzen – 9/3, Gray – 10/4, and Meyer – 2/4.

“Lesser” Name 2011s

Baylor SO RHSP Logan Verrett – 7 IP 9 H 6 ER 1 BB 5 K
Rice SO LHSP Taylor Wall – 3 IP 4 H 3 ER 2 BB 3 K

Verrett and Wall both struggled some in their debuts, but they are still both 2011s well keeping a close on eye, Verrett especially. He’s a pitcher that would be getting a lot more attention (talked about as a serious top of the first half round candidate) if he wasn’t part of such a loaded class. Timing is everything, I suppose.

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.

College Baseball 2009 – All Freshman Prospect Team (Class of ’11)

The regular season college baseball season begins this Friday, February 20th – I know, I can’t believe it either. Content this week is going to be extremely college-centric because, quite honestly, college opening day really can sneak up on a guy. Lots and lots and lots of college content this week, so be forewarned.

To celebrate the return of baseball into our everyday lives, let’s take a stroll around the college baseball landscape and see what we see. What better starting point than the youngest of the young, the players with that wonderful new-ballplayer scent, the college freshmen? After the jump, enjoy a sampling of some of the finest freshmen — non-draft-eligible, although some listed players are actually part of the 2010 draft class — to watch this season…

(more…)

Looking Forward to the Past

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

There Were Ten Tigers

Photo Credit: There Were Ten Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stacking up the ’09’s with the ’08’s

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

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

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

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

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