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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