April Draft Report

I have been a little slow updating things on the draft front this spring, so today I want to talk about a few things that have become certainties in this 2010 Amateur Draft. (Also, for more great stuff, let me point you to the leaders in this coverage: SB Nation recently absorbed Andy Seiler’s great MLB Bonus Baby site, Keith Law and Jason Churchill always kill it at ESPN, and nobody does it better than my boys at Baseball America).

1. Bryce Harper is the best player available. The early billing Harper received — I first read about him in August, 2008 in an article entitled “Remember This Name” by Rich Lederer — was met with some inevitable backlash this fall, as many scouts thought Harper might be over his head in a wood bat junior college league. The feelings that the hyperbole had grown out of control were incorrect, as we may have been selling Harper’s talent short. He’s already broken the single-season home run record for the league, and has continued to show the 450-foot home runs and 95 mph fastball that created his legend. No scouts question his status as the draft’s top prospect any longer, and bonus demands are the only thing that could keep him from going 1-1.

2. After Harper, we will see a lot of pitchers drafted. It sounds like Drew Pomeranz is slowly positioning himself as the most likely #2 choice to the Pittsburgh Pirates, as 90 strikeouts and a 1.38 ERA in 58.2 innings is a definitive showing. On the high school side, Texas right-hander Jameson Taillon has begun to further himself from other prep pitchers. But while those might be the top dogs, this class has every kind of pitcher short of a prep lefty. I think we will see 20 in the first 30 picks, as the lack of real hitting prospects outweighs any belief in TINSTAPP.

3. If you think patience can be taught, Gary Brown could be really good. Always cited as one of college baseball’s most exciting and talented players, Gary Brown’s resume at Cal State Fullerton before the season left a bit to be desired. This year, he’s hitting .448, and his blazing speed is on display, with 8 triples, 22 steals, and reportedly plus defense in center. The problem? He has just five walks in 158 plate appearances. His plate coverage is fantastic, as the 5 walks are contrasted by only 9 strikeouts, but his OBP is too BABIP reliant. A team will take a chance given the foot and bad speed, but Brown still has a ways to come.

4. For the first time since 2001, a reliever will not be chosen in the first round. This is an often criticized strategy, but the sheer depth of upside among starting pitchers should push relievers back a bit. There are solid relievers, like Georgia Tech RHP Kevin Jacob, James Madison RHP Kevin Munson or UCLA RHP Dan Klein, but none have the upside of a guy like Georgia RHP Justin Grimm. I don’t believe this will be the start of a long-term trend away from college relievers, it’s just the circumstance that demands it.

5. Jedd Gyorko and Kolbrin Vitek are fun names to say. These two guys are really interesting, and I remain fascinated by their ever-changing draft status. In addition to sharing interesting names, they are also two sluggers from non-traditional Division I schools (West Virginia and Ball State, respectively) that profile at second base and just hit the hell out of the baseball. Combined, the guys are hitting .378/.465/.719 this season, and have just have not given scouts a chance to dig into them. Given the lack of viable hitting prospects, I really think they should be getting late-to-supplemental first round consideration. I just can’t wait to hear Bud Selig pronounce their names.

After the jump, a brief scouting report that I wrote up almost three weeks ago, but never had time to turn into a full article. It’s from April 2, when I watched Ohio State RHP Alex Wimmers pitch against Northwestern.

***

Wimmers faced Northwestern after a week off in his sixth start of the season. He pitched 7 innings, struck out a season-low five batters, and scattered two walks, six hits and one run. There were about 7-10 scouts in attendance, including two from an organization drafting in the top ten.

Wimmers was 91-93 in the early innings, and showed scouts a few 94’s in the first inning. In the bullpen before the game, his fastball showed good arm side run. It was straighter in the early innings, but the movement returned in the fifth inning, as his fastball dipped to 90-91. His fastball command came and went, and he particularly struggled with it pitching out of the stretch, where he falls off hard to the first base side. Has the frame to handle a lot of innings down the road, but must develop better balance.

The Northwestern lineup was packed with left-handed hitters, so Wimmers was hesitant to throw his signature curveball early. In the still-brisk Chicago afternoon, he couldn’t get a grip of the pitch in the early innings. The Northwestern hitters were well prepared to lay off the pitch, but in the fourth inning, he did start showing he could locate the curve for a strike. After that, he began to get more swings and misses with the pitch.

The best development for the right-hander was the strength of his change up. It looked very good in the bullpen before the game, but I think it was a surprise to the scouts that he showed such confidence with the pitch during the game. He struck out three LHH’s with the pitch, and he showed plus feel throughout the game. While he never had all three pitches going for him, the fact that all three project as plus explain his standing as a first round arm.



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Temo
Member
Temo
6 years 3 months ago

“and has continued to show the 450-foot home runs and 95 mph fastball that created his legend.”

To be fair, the backlash was more against the 500-foot HRs and 98 MPH fastball that the SI article started.

Jeff Reese
Member
6 years 3 months ago

“For the first time since 2001, a reliever will not be chosen in the first round.”

What about Chad Bettis? Jesse Hahn has probably established himself as a starter, but I don’t think Bettis has and there’s certainly a chance he could be drafted in the first round. Stetson Allie could also get some consideration and his future looks to be out of the bullpen.

Big Oil
Member
Big Oil
6 years 3 months ago

Bryan,

Enjoy the articles — keep them coming.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
6 years 3 months ago

Why does Gary Brown need to be patient in order to succeed? Fast, low strikeout, low walk players can be very successful. His OBP may be BABIP reliant, but if he’s fast he should be able to have a high BABIP. With low strikeout and walk numbers, he should have a high AB total, which means a high sample size for his BABIP to normalize (thus his BA and OBP will be less ‘luck’ based)

A career similar to Placido Polanco or Luis Castillo is easily conceivable with someone like Ichiro being his ceiling.

B N
Guest
B N
6 years 3 months ago

Ichiro still has way more patience and he has a BABIP that is significantly not luck based due to an approach that’s almost unable to be imitated. I personally don’t think there’s any way that he could even be considered a ceiling for a rookie because nobody else seems to be able to inflate their BABIP in that manner.

A better comparable for ceiling might be Juan Pierre when he could walk or Gary Sheffield if he couldn’t walk well but knew how to defend well. Which are both pretty valuable players, actually.

But in general, you need either patience, power, or very good defense to be a major league regular at any position except catcher. Without excelling at one of these, he’d be a later-years Juan Pierre or a Pods. Getting some playing time, but mainly filler.

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen
6 years 3 months ago

Plenty of player’s have high BABIP. Derek Jeter has a higher career BABIP than Ichiro. So does Lew Ford. Bat control+speed=high BABIP. Brown has bat control and speed, at least that is my understanding of the scouting reports–having never witnessed him playing.

If Brown can maintain a 1:2 BB to K rate in the majors, I don’t see his lack of patience being that detrimental. Now would he be a better player if he walked 10% or 15% of the time? Yeah, probably, but Carl Crawford posted a 4.9 win season while walking 3.9% of the time and striking out 17% of the time.

Johnny
Guest
Johnny
6 years 3 months ago

Have you heard anything about Matt Bywater from Pepperdine? Great slider…

Rich
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Rich
6 years 3 months ago

The fact that a guy has a high Babip and low walks doesn’t mean he doesn’t have patience.

The point of having patience is not to walk. The point is to only swing at pitches you can drive. If the pitcher doesn’t throw one, you walk. If he is significantly better than the pitchers pitching to him, he’s not going to get to 4 balls often because hes crushing earlier pitches.

Also, the idea that any variation from league average Babip is luck, is absolutely ludicrous.

Bryan Smith
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Bryan Smith
6 years 3 months ago

“Also, the idea that any variation from league average Babip is luck, is absolutely ludicrous.”

Did someone ever suggest that? What are you talking about?

“The point of having patience is not to walk.”

I can appreciate this. But even in seasons where he’s hit less than .450, he doesn’t walk. Brown has seen the variance that relying solely on balls in play can do to his draft status, which has been all over the place since his high school days.

Not criticizing his approach is results-based analysis.

Rich
Guest
Rich
6 years 3 months ago

We’re talking about a kid here with a .250 IsoP. He’s driving the ball.

This whole thing reminds me of something Josh Reddick said during spring training this year(where he hit .390/.413/.678). It was along the lines of “I’m trying to walk more, but pitchers keep throwing me crappy pitches before ball 4”

If you want to say he lacks patience, you need to start talking about him swinging at balls out of the zone.

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen
6 years 3 months ago

Having not seen any games that Brown has played in, I assume that when people say that he lacks patience it means that he swings at bad pitches and makes weak contact, which leads to outs.

Rich
Guest
Rich
6 years 3 months ago

But thats not what Smith is saying. He’s saying he doesn’t walk, therefore hes not patient.

a .457/.479/.707 triple slash doesn’t suggest hes swinging at bad pitches and making weak contact. It suggests hes squaring up the ball well.

Again, Patience isn’t about garnering walks. Its about getting good pitches to hit.

Bryan Smith
Guest
Bryan Smith
6 years 3 months ago

Rich: You are still too focused on this season. Brown’s AVG/SLG haven’t been nearly as good in his freshman and sophomore seasons, and as a result, your argument doesn’t hold water. Teams weren’t willing to match Brown’s bonus demands out of high school, because they thought he’d be better served adding refinement in college.

If he had shown patience in the past and I saw a lack of walks were the result of his success, I would never have made the point. But the lack of walks have been an aspect of his game since he has been on the scouting radar. And just because he’s been hitting the cover off the ball this year doesn’t mean he shouldn’t work on honing his approach at the next level.

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