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December 17, 2012

Scouting the Draft

College Left-Handed Pitchers

by Nick J. Faleris

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Today’s installment of Scouting the Draft looks at five collegiate left-handers with the chance to come off the board in the early rounds next June. As a reminder, the goal of this series is not to cover every name worth knowing for next June; we have plenty of time to bring you full reports on the top draft-eligible players for 2013 over the next seven months. This is meant to serve as an introduction to the draft class for those who have not yet begun to follow the action and to pool in one place a rundown of some of the top performances in the months leading up to the draft before we start parsing the class in more detail.

Matt Boyd | LHP | Oregon St. University 2/2/1991

The Basics: 6-foot-3, 215-pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 22y 4m

Brings to the table: A durable build, easy arm, and four-pitch mix from the left side. Boyd may not currently have a plus pitch in his arsenal but will show average-to-above-average grades on his fastball, change-up, and two distinct breakers.  His change-up may have the most promise of his three secondaries, coming with some late tumble. Boyd’s slider and curve each show good shape and average depth when snapped-off properly, but when he isn’t hitting his release, the former tends to saucer on one plane while the latter lacks enough bite to avoid more advanced bats. His fastball is fringe-average for a lefty, sitting in the 88-92 mph range (though he’ll kick it up two-to-four mph when throwing shorter stints out of the pen). 

Made a name for himself when: He strung together a solid summer with Orleans on the Cape, highlighted by a strong All-Star Game performance and capped by a playoff win in which he tossed seven strong frames while allowing just one run on three hits, striking out 11, and walking three.  Boyd logged just three starts during his 27 innings but showed enough comfort with his arsenal and worked well enough in those starts to give evaluators hope he can stick in a rotation at the pro ranks.

Figures to get attention: During Pac 12 play and in particular during tough road series against Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, and defending champs Arizona. The Beavers will also square-off against Kris Bryant and the Toreros in San Diego in late March. A quality spring could land Boyd in the top five rounds with a back-of-the-rotation profile.  His fallback option is a shift back to the pen where he could fit in as a seventh- or eighth-inning arm.
 

Marco Gonzalez | LHP/INF | Gonzaga University 2/16/1992

The Basics: 6-foot-1, 185-pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 21y 4m

Brings to the table: The best off-speed offering among the top tier of draft-eligible arms and a two or three solid-average pitches backing it up.  Gonzalez’s fastball shows just fringe-average velocity and is hittable, particularly up in the zone. He accounts for this primarily by working off of his change-up (a 60/65 offering on the 20-to-80 scouting scale), which slows down bats and gives his heater a boost in effectiveness. His slider is ahead of his curve right now, but each could be average offerings with continued reps. Gonzalez is a talented two-way player that shows good athleticism on the mound, and his body control and mechanics help him to produce good command and control with each of his offerings.

Made a name for himself when: He used his change-up to help punch out 29 batters over 22 1/3 innings with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team this summer while posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly six-to-one.  While knocked around a fair amount by Team Cuba, Gonzalez finished strong with back-to-back impressive performances against Japan and the Netherlands, tossing 15 combined innings, allowing two runs on nine hits and two walks, and striking out 19.

Figures to get attention: Towards the end of Day One of the draft. Gonzalez fits well as a command/control lefty with mid-rotation upside and a fairly high floor. His advanced feel for his change-up will help him carve up lesser bats, but there is still work to be done in order for the rest of the package to play. His ultimate ceiling will be determined by the progress he makes with the execution of his fastball and breaking balls in addition to his overall approach and sequencing of a solid but less-than-dominant collection of weapons.
 

Sean Manaea | LHP | Indiana St. University

The Basics: 6-foot-5, 215-pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 21y 4m

Brings to the table: A big fastball with some remaining projection in his frame.  Manaea was one of the biggest surprises of the summer, showing a spike in stuff which he maintained fairly well throughout his stint on the Cape (despite some regression once the fall rolled around).  His best offering is a low-to-mid-90s fastball that he ran as high as 96 mph in the later innings.  He has some success with his split-change due to the velo delta from his fastball and solid arm speed, but it isn’t a pitch he places in and out of the zone, and it may lose some utility against more discerning bats. His slider is generally below-average, though he showed more consistency with the offering through the summer than he has in the past, flashing above-average at times and giving some hope it can be a second strong offering at the major league level.  He’s more control than command but should improve upon his pitch placement as he continues to refine his mechanics in order to stay more direct to the plate. 

Made a name for himself when: He dominated the Cape to the tune of a 14.7 K/9 rate and .119 batting average against over a league-leading 51 2/3 innings pitched. He was able to work into the sixth inning in each of his eight starts while logging seven-plus innings in three of his last four (totaling 22 innings pitched and 34 strikeouts to just five hits and one walk over that span).  He made a lot of money for himself this summer, putting together one of the most dominant pitching seasons in recent Cape history during a summer that was unusually slanted to the offensive side.

Figures to get attention: In the top ten picks come June. Barring an injury or a big step back in stuff, Manaea’s loud Cape season in front of numerous decision-makers should make the projectable lefty a veritable lock to come off the board early on Day One. Right now the sum of his parts outweighs the pure grades on stuff, but 6-foot-5 lefties that hold velocity into the mid-to-late-innings are always hot commodities. The wild card is Scott Boras, who advises Manaea and, under the first year of the new draft system, saw his top collegiate advisee (Mark Appel) return to school for his senior year after slipping to seventh overall, at least in part due to perceived bonus demands.
 

Tom Windle | LHP | University of Minnesota

The Basics: 6-foot-4, 202-pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 21y 3m

Brings to the table: An average-to-above-average fastball and a slider with tilt from the left side.  Windle’s fastball shows a wide velocity spread, working as low as 87 mph and reaching as high as 95 mph up in the zone, while his slide piece can come with inconsistent shape. Each of these issues can, at least in part, be tied to his tendency to pull off his delivery, which makes a consistent release point problematic.  Windle shows some feel for his change-up and is generally around the zone with each offering. 

Made a name for himself when: He punched out 47 batters over just 38 1/3 innings pitched for the Brewster Whitecaps on the Cape. Like Manaea, Windle has projection remaining in his frame, adding value to an already solid draft profile.  The Minnesota lefty was at his best early in the summer before struggling some with his in-the-zone command in late July. Still, Windle gave Midwest area scouts, cross-checkers, and scouting directors plenty of reason to keep tabs on him this spring, and even a modest uptick in stuff and consistency could result in a big jump up draft boards.

Figures to get attention: When Minnesota hosts Indiana State in March.  The Friday night game should feature Windle and Manaea opposite each other on the bump, making it perhaps the premier game in the entire region this spring and a likely target for numerous scouting directors and cross-checkers. Windle has a shot to come off the board in the first round with continued refinement this spring and could have mid-rotation upside.


Kevin Ziomek | LHP | Vanderbilt University

The Basics: 6-foot-3, 200-pounds; right/left profile; draft day age 21y 2m

Brings to the table: Perhaps the most refined left-handed arsenal in the draft class. The Vandy lefty boasts an average fastball that generally sits in the 90-93-mph range and plays up due to the quality of his secondaries and his ability to fill up the strike zone. His breaking ball is a hybrid offering with good shape that he can drop in the zone or bury as a chase pitch.  His change-up may be his best weapon with a solid eight-to-ten mile-per-hour separation from the fastball and good late fade. Ziomek isn’t the highest-ceilinged arm in the draft class, but he could boast three above-average offerings when all is said and done, including two potentially plus secondary offerings.

Made a name for himself when: He struck out 25 batters to just 11 hits and four walks through his first 15 2/3 innings this summer. Ziomek was shut down in early July but not before leaving a lasting impression on the evaluators that saw him. The lefty lacks the projection of Windle and the big fastball of Manaea, but he may be the best bet of the three to provide long-term value at the major league level.

Figures to get attention: Throughout the spring, along with the rest of the stacked collection of SEC draft-eligible arms. Ziomek currently fits comfortably in the top 50 or so overall draft talents and could climb into early Day One consideration if he can build upon his early summer showings.
 

****

Summer Scouting Series:
High School Outfielders | High School Infielders/Catchers | High School RHP | High School LHP
College Outfielders | College Infielders | College RHP | College LHP

Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses in Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.

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

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