WTNYMay 11, 2005
WTNY Best College Pitchers
By Bryan Smith

Following yesterday's article on the best hitters in college baseball, I wanted to tackle the pitchers. This year's group is fairly top-heavy, with a fairly substantial dropoff following the top four pitchers.

I have not included Jered Weaver and Wade Townsend in this article, though you should forget about neither. While teams will surely have reservations about players that sat out a year, it might have been OK for two arms that were badly overworked in college. Neither has the stuff of the top two names on this list, but they definitely make the aforementioned group of four a stellar six.

Onto the thirteen best college hurlers...

First, we will look at the best right-handed starting pitchers in college baseball. That group is Luke Hochevar (Tennessee), Mike Pelfrey (Wichita State), Mark McCormick (Baylor), Tim Lincecum (Washington), Cesar Carillo (Miami), and Micah Owings (Tulane):

LH	96.2	1.77	64	107	32	0.246
MP	107.2	1.50	72	113	23	0.241
MM	72.1	2.74	46	75	39	0.233
TL	79.1	3.29	47	95	51	0.262
CC	92	1.47	67	96	16	0.262
MO	85.2	3.78	75	91	15	0.340
(SLG is the opponent's slugging percentage against the pitcher)

There is no question that the top two pitching talents in the draft are Hochevar and Pelfrey. The problem, like too many amateur stars, are that they are seen as tough signs through their affiliation with Scott Boras. Who is better is a coin flip at this point, though I like Pelfrey a little better because of control. While both pitchers should normally slot as top eight choices, we could see these players slip considerably depending on team's budgets.

McCormick probably follows the big two, as his stuff has been boasted for the last two seasons. His problem, including when Rich saw him live, is the control. He is improved in that area this season, but I would be a little afraid of pitching a NCAA pitcher with a K/BB less than two. Lincecum has the same problem, as he has even more walks than McCormick. Tim is the best sophomore available in this draft, and one of the younger players, so teams will still be intrigued by the polish-ceiling combination.

Cesar Carillo reminds me of Aaron Heilman, who was the 18th overall selection out of Notre Dame after going 15-0 as a junior. Carillo has yet to lose in college, including twelve wins his sophomore season. His stuff is not going to bring scouts out of the woodwork, but this is the type of smart, polished pitcher that you look for at this age.

Owings is the wild card, similar to Jeff Larish as he returned to school after a poor showing in last year's draft. The difference is that Owings was a draft-eligible sophomore last season, and instead of returning to Georgia Tech transferred to Green Wave. Owings is a solid two-way talent but one that I believe will stick on the mound. He is still a little raw on the mound, and for some reason I see a future middle reliever, but Owings could make a team happy in the sandwich round.

Moving onto the southpaws, we have Ricky Romero (Cal State Fullerton), Cesar Ramos (Long Beach State), Brian Bogusevic (Tulane) and Ryan Mullins (Vanderbilt). Their numbers:

RR	104	2.60	81	116	29	0.323
CR	107.1	2.10	84	83	13	0.282
BB	89	2.83	81	89	30	0.313
RM	59.1	3.49	57	53	18	0.376

Like the right-handers, there is no question who is on top here. Ricky Romero is a fantastic talent that after living in Jason Windsor's shadow last year has stepped out in a big way. You have heard about his three solid pitches and their fantastic movement, but notice all those strikeouts and his 4/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His best attribute may be the lack of Scott Boras in his representation group, which could aid in making him the top pitcher drafted.

Next is Brian Bogusevic, a hard-throwing leftie that has stepped up big at Tulane. Like Owings he still is a little raw at pitching, but I believe that his ceiling is far greater than that of Owings. Look for this kid in the College World Series, because he will surely not let the Green Wave go down without a fight. Ryan Mullins is similar to Romero in the fact that he lived in a shadow last year, that of Jeremy Sowers, and has disappointed a bit in his junior campaign. Mullins is nowhere near the talent that Sowers was, but he is a fairly safe choice in the supplemental first round.

Last but not least we have Cesar Ramos, who has taken over Friday night pitching for the Dirtbags since Jered Weaver moved on. Here is what Rich said about Ramos after seeing him this spring:

Ramos, who has been likened to former Dirtbag and current Red Sox lefty Abe Alvarez, has big shoes to fill. The preseason All-American has been designated as the team's Friday night starter, an honor previously bestowed on last year's College Player of the Year Jered Weaver. Ramos and Alvarez, who Theo Epstein was pleased to take with Boston's second-round pick in the 2003 draft, are both 6'2", 190-pound southpaws with exceptional control and command of their fastballs and off-speed pitches.

With the increased popularity of spending first-round picks on college closers, here is a look at this year's batch. Craig Hansen (St. John's) leads the pack, with Brent Cox (Texas) a close second. I have also made a pre-emptive move in listing Jason Neighborall (Georgia Tech) here. Their numbers:

CH	47.1	1.14	26	62	12	0.222
BC	52.2	1.88	39	63	10	0.255
JN	50	6.30	44	66	45	0.288

Teams are going to be afraid of drafting Jason Neighborall this season after seeing 45 walks in 50 innings from the Yellow Jackets' Friday night starter. I wouldn't be too afraid, as I believe the smart move would be to draft him and immediately move him to the closer spot. Neighborall has a big fastball and fantastic strikeout numbers, along with allowing very few extra-base hits this year. With that being said, he is represented by Scott Boras who will quickly teach him if he doesn't like the role he is drafted into, not signing could be his best move.

The best of the group is undoubtedly Craig Hansen, who might just be the best closer to come out of college yet. The successes of Chad Cordero and Huston Street will make Hansen both a hot and expensive commodity. He is yet another Boras client, and will be demanding big dollars since he could contribute as early as September. In my mind, the relieving-starved Mets would be crazy not to draft Hansen ninth, and make him the best-paid college closer yet.

Brent Cox is last, after emerging as the Longhorn closer this season with Huston Street's departure. Cox is a solid pick that could end up like Cordero, who went a little unnoticed coming in as the second-ranked closer behind Chad Cordero. Plenty of teams are having bullpen issues this year, and spending a choice on 2005 and 2006 would not be a bad decision.

Finally, here is my attempt at ranking the thirteen players. Again, these rankings are far more stat-heavy than anything else, but it doesn't appear to be too far off other lists.

1. Mike Pelfrey, RHP/SP- Wichita State
2. Luke Hochevar, RHP/SP- Tennessee
3. Ricky Romero, LHP/SP- Cal State Fullerton
4. Craig Hansen, RHP/RP- St. John's

5. Mark McCormick, RHP/SP- Baylor
6. Brian Bogusevic, LHP/SP- Tulane
7. Brent Cox, RHP/RP- Texas
8. Cesar Carillo, RHP/SP- Miami
9. Cesar Ramos, LHP/SP- Long Beach State
10. Tim Lincecum, RHP/SP- Washington
11. Ryan Mullins, LHP/SP- Vanderbilt
12. Micah Owings, RHP/SP- Tulane
13. Jason Neighborall, RHP/P- Georgia Tech


any thought's on Hansen's teammate--Anthony Varvaro?

72 ip, 50h, 31 w, 103 k, 4hr

Darren, I think Varvaro would be a very nice way to spend a third-round pick. Those numbers are excellent, though I believe Varvaro doesn't have two things that Hansen does: stuff and height. One of those matters to everyone, one of those matters to some people. Varvaro could very well go through the minors becoming the next Buddy Hernandez, frustrating us all while he dominates.

If I was a Major League General manager with some depth problems in my bullpen, I would consider Varvaro and Neil Jamison in the 3rd.