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May 13, 2010

Future Shock

Draft Notebook: Established Pitchers and Pop-up Arms

by Kevin Goldstein

College Pitchers Messing Up, and Messing Things Up

This year's draft is unquestionably pitching-heavy, with many college arms expecting to be called with single-digit picks, but recent performances have many early-drafting teams reassessing their options. The big three entering the year were Anthony Ranaudo of LSU, Mississippi's Drew Pomeranz, and Deck McGuire of Georgia Tech. While none of them are of the same class as recent top college arms like Stephen Strasburg and David Price, they’re still considered a solid group worthy of early selections. However, the first two have done themselves no favors of late, while McGuire just doesn't have the ability to help his case much in the first place.

The spring has been nothing short of a disaster for Ranaudo, the 6-foot-7 right-hander with an ideal power pitcher's frame and plus stuff. He missed much of the first part of the season with an elbow injury, and since his return he's been awful. At a key time where the eyeballs shift from not only those of scouts, but plenty of scouting directors and general managers, Ranaudo has been miserable of late, allowing 19 runs and 20 hits in his last three starts, during which he's lasted a total of just 6 1/3 innings. He's plummeting on draft charts, and very easily could slip to the bottom half of the first round, if not lower depending on anticipated bonus demands.

Pomeranz has also struggled of late, but not nearly on the same level as Ranaudo. His overall numbers remain outstanding, and as a big, athletic lefty with a plus fastball/curve combination, he still should end up in the top five.

"The body of work is just too good on this guy for him to slide in the draft," commented one scouting director.

As for McGuire, he's more of an is-what-he-is type prospect who has not moved up or down anyone's board this spring as much as he's merely held serve. Like Ranaudo and Pomeranz, McGuire features impressive size (6-foot-6, 220), but he's more of a strike thrower with just average velocity but two quality secondary offerings in his power breaking ball and changeup.

"In another draft, we'd be talking about him as more of a mid-first round type," said one official. "But here we are in May, and he could go in the top 10."

Taking advantage of the poor performances from that trio is Florida Gulf Coast left-hander Chris Sale, who continues to mow down hitters despite a recent case of food poisoning that caused a loss in weight and velocity. With a 1.95 ERA and 114 strikeouts in just 83 innings, Sale has the numbers, and his stuff can be equally impressive. The extremely long and lanky southpaw features excellent command of a low-90s fastball and a very good change, but his low three-quarters arm slot and inconsistent breaking pitch give some teams pause. Still, he's catching, and for some, passing the biggest names out there from bigger schools. They say one game can make all the difference, and for Sale, that game came on May 1, as with scouts waiting all year to see him pitch against better competition, he struck out 10 while allowing just four hits over eight innings in a non-conference game against Clemson. 

More Arms Pop Up

The scouting term is "pop-up guy." Every spring there are players who seemingly come from out of nowhere, and suddenly go from follow guys to potential first-round picks. This year's high-school version is Ryne Stanek, a 6-foot-4 right-hander at Blue Valley High school just outside of Kansas City. Last spring, Stanek was sitting in the high 80s and occasionally touching 90 mph, with most believing he'd be better off pitching at Arkansas (where's he's committed) for three years. This spring, he's suddenly touching 96 and drawing throngs of scouts to every start, with one scout estimating as many as 70 talent evaluators at a recent outing. While the 96-mph heat is not seen consistently, Stanek does park his fastball at 92-93 while also showing an overhand curveball with potential. His out-of-nowhere status and some questions about mechanics could keep him out of the first round, but he shouldn't last much longer than that.

 College baseball's version of Stanek might be right-hander Dave Filak. Only two players have ever been drafted out of Division III SUNY-Oneonta, and none higher than the 13th round. Filak is going to change that for sure, and recent outings have him possible moving into the first round. Primarily a strong-armed catcher in high school, Filak has made a seamless transition to the mound, consistently touching 95-96 mph with his fastball to go with a plus power curveball. Standing 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Filak's frame is nearly ideal for a power pitcher, and unlike most converted players, he looks like a pitcher on the mound with smooth mechanics and good arm action. A bout of forearm tightness sidelined him briefly this spring, but he's been at his best of late, and while he's facing sub-par competition, his 96 strikeouts in just 59 1/3 innings is still a loud stat.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article On the Beat: A Tiger o... (05/12)
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Premium Article Future Shock: Monday T... (05/17)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: Back ... (05/13)

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