WTNYApril 17, 2006
Pluses and Minuses
By Bryan Smith

For those following the upcoming June amateur draft, 2006 has been a year of cynicism. While no one ever proclaimed the '06 class to be top-heavy, the preseason talk centered around one of the best and deepest group of pitchers in recent memory.

After a 2005 draft in which no pitcher was chosen among the first five picks, the tables were set to be turned in 2006. However, one by one, the wheels have come off for many of the junior blue chippers. Max Scherzer, injured. Daniel Bard, inconsistent. Dallas Buck, ineffective.

With the draft just about two short months away, player's stocks seem as volatile as ever. Take Ian Kennedy as an example. Early in the season, we saw the player many had labeled the safest pick in the draft, dominant through three starts.

Opponent IP H ER K BB
Long Beach State 6 5 3 7 1
Florida International 7 3 0 10 2
Kansas 8.2 1 0 13 3

However, what followed was a string of mediocrity, when Kennedy proved as flappable as anyone in the country. He hadn't suffered such a slump in all his years as a Trojan.

Opponent IP H ER K BB
Hawaii 7 7 3 5 2
Georgia 6.2 9 3 11 2
Stanford 6.1 9 5 2 1
Oregon State 6 6 1 5 5
Stanford 6.1 9 5 6 2

But with one start, the stock of Ian Kennedy was back. Pitching against Brandon Morrow and the rival California Bears, Kennedy went ten innings to earn his first win in quite a few outings. He showed great control and pitchability in addition to proving his valuable "innings-eater" label.

This week, unfortunately, Kennedy could not keep scouts' spirits high. Pitching in the thin air of Tempe, Arizona, Kennedy had his worst start of the year: 11 hits and 8 earned runs in 5.1 innings. Despite his best efforts, Kennedy has been pronounced a first rounder through all of 2006's trials and tribulations. But as the last two weeks have shown, single starts will have plenty of impact on how much slot money Ian is allotted.

Without question, each member of this year's draft class comes with a serious number of caveats. Here's one attempt at balancing the positives and negatives with a few players making movement on draft boards...

Tim Lincecum, RHP: Washington

If the season ended today, no player would be more deserving of the Golden Spikes trophy. It took Lincecum a while to get going, but since he has not looked back. A quick glance at his last four starts, in which he has not yielded an earned run:

Opponent IP H ER K BB BF
Brigham Young 6 1 0 14 1 20
Arizona State 9 2 0 12 4 33
UCLA 9 2 0 18 1 31
California 8 5 0 8 3 32

During this streak, Lincecum has struck out about 45% of the hitters he has faced. He has been so dominant, in fact, that just 16.4% of these batters have reached base via a hit or walk. Once full of control problems, Lincecum has been on point since rocky starts against Santa Clara and Cal Poly.

Statistically, Lincecum is at the top of college baseball. He could very well enter an organization with the nation's most prestigious prize. In addition, he will come with maybe the most devastating two-pitch combination out there, with a mid 90s fastball and devastating curve. Everything rosy?

Not exactly. While scouts fixate on Lincecum's tiny frame, others point to a workload that would run most pitchers ragged. In four straight starts the Huskie faced more than 30 batters, during which time he also pitched in relief on short rest. The best player on an overachieving team, Lincecum is ridden very hard.

While some pitchers can thank a rubber arm for endurance, some see Lincecum as a ticking time bomb. His herky-jerky delivery, mixed with that small frame and heavy workload, seems to be a definite sign of arm trouble down the road. Once considered a third round pick because of this red flag, Lincecum's dominance has some teams hoping to play roulette.

Matt Antonelli, 3B/2B: Wake Forest

I have been tooting Antonelli's horn in this space for quite some time now, as I fell in love with his patience-athleticism combination display in the Cape last year. Even while Antonelli started to show newly-developed power this year, I said the former football and hockey star could handle a move to the middle of the diamond.

Someone was listening. After showing his offensive versatility with a move from the middle of the order to the leadoff slot, Antonelli started to show versatility in the field this past weekend. For the first time in his career, Antonelli helped the Demon Deacons at another position, playing half the series at second base. Certainly, this will not help alleviate the long-standing comparison to Edgardo Alfonzo.

Entering the season as a definite early round selection, many think his newfound power (hitting his 11th homer on Sunday) will undoubtedly lead to a first round selection. But be careful, as teams are not afraid to look at context. At his site, Boyd Nation ranks the Division I baseball teams each week, top to bottom.

According to Nation's rankings, Wake Forest has played nine top 100 teams this year, playing 18 games against the group. More of his games have been against worse teams, including six games against club's ranked below the 200 slot. Against the 11 schools he has faced ranked below 100, Antonelli has been dominant, hitting .430 with 20 of his 25 extra-base hits.

However, when up against the best his schedule has to offer, it has been a different story for Antonelli. Against the nine top 100 teams, Matt is just 17/69, good for a .246 average and .391 slugging percentage. While being able to pound Wright State and Virginia Tech is important, Antonelli has much to prove in upcoming weekend series against Florida State, Miami and Clemson. His performance should dictate whether or not Antonelli is among the top 30 picks in the draft.

Daniel Bard, RHP: North Carolina

For the first time in the school's history, the Tar Heel baseball team was recently given the #1 overall ranking by one outlet. This fact goes far to validate much of the preseason hype surrounding North Carolina, seen by many as the most top heavy baseball team in the nation.

"With those two, how could they lose?" one reader asked me, referring to the consensus top-six pitchers Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard. But while Miller has been fantastic, staying consistent and on pace to be drafted first overall, Bard is pitching his way out of the top ten. Instead of two sure-fire wins per weekend, extra onus has been placed on other Tar Heels, like shortstop Josh Horton, third ace Robert Woodard, and closer Andrew Carnigan.

This past weekend, Bard had his first quality start in five outings. By shutting out Virginia Tech (ranked #131 by Boyd), Bard put a temporary stop to his recent decline. Still, the right-hander walked five batters in 7 innings, bringing the five-start total to 20 in 26.1 innings.

Like Antonelli, Bard has struggled against the best on the Tar Heel schedule. In three consecutive starts against good programs in Georgia Tech, Florida State and Miami, Bard failed to make it out of the fifth inning. He allowed eleven earned runs in 12 innings. Without the slider -- a potential plus pitch with the development of consistency -- Bard is just another hard thrower.

Early in the season, I claimed Bard had cemented his status as one of the nation's top three pitchers, and was challenging Scherzer for the second spot. Oops. Now, both Brandon Morrow and Brad Lincoln have firmly moved past Bard, who will be in a two-month race with a few other starters for the fifth college pitcher selected honor.

Greg Reynolds, RHP: Stanford

Personally, I have never understood it. OK, Brandon Morrow had an ERA over 9.00 his sophomore year. And Max Scherzer was a disaster as a freshman. I get that, but each balances those poor statistics with an upper 90s mph fastball. While Greg Reynolds possesses good stuff and great size, I have never understood the love for Reynolds.

Like Kennedy and Bard, Reynolds appeal is for his early season statistics. Through four starts, Reynolds was validating the preseason hype, especially after dominating Fresno State, striking out 11 in 7.2 innings. Since, Greg has only been impressive in one start, against the Cardinal's lone second half cookie-cutter opponent: San Jose State.

Reynolds is a mixed bag in every sense of the phrase. His delivery isn't fluid enough, and his head-bobbing wind up is blamed for control problems. But Reynolds also offers fantastic arm action to go with his size, indicating a lot of velocity and pitchability in his future.

But with first round picks, results are important. Without a better resume, Reynolds stands to have a more disappointing draft day than many are projecting.

Rounding out the Pitchers

After a bad couple months, Joba Chamberlain had a big weekend pitching against Texas A&M. With Bard and Kennedy, he has a chance at becoming the fifth college pitcher drafted. As do the two college closers -- Mark Melancon and Blair Erickson -- though that's probably too early for both. Melancon was out this past weekend, while Erickson had an unsuccessful attempt at the rotation. Sleeper Josh Butler has been too hittable for San Diego this past week, and now stands as a fringe first rounder. Jared Hughes is in the same boat, and with a big finish, teammate Andrew Carpenter could catch him. Falling is Dallas Buck, who finally this weekend had a good start (if not dominant) against a good team.

Other Big Hitters

Wes Hodges had a good weekend, and his numbers are sitting at the best point of his season. While I still question whether his power will make it to the next level, it's hard to imagine he slips past the middle of the first round. The same is true for Drew Stubbs, who will be worth the gamble for some team. He is the Tyler Greene, if more talented, of 2006. Slugger Matt LaPorta continues his all-or-nothing ways; I'm convinced Mark Hamilton (Tulane) will make for the better choice. Finally, look for some teams to snatch up sure-fire players like Chad Tracy and Shane Robinson around supplemental draft time.

College baseball's short season makes each weekend more important than the previous. In a world where Tim Lincecum is mentioned for the top overall pick thanks to four fantastic starts, expect major changes in common draft mentality before the next time I bring this up. Welcome to the world of "ping."


Great discussion.

I have two questions for you:

First, what is your impression of Morrow and Lincoln as pro prospects? Are they worth a top-10 pick? Lincoln has been consistently good all season, and Morrow has been dominant. Are these guys elite talents, or just guys who are rising up draft boards because other players are slipping.

Second, how do you think that the prep prospects compare with the top college pitchers. Miller has clearly separated himself from everyone else. But do you think that the struggles of Scherzer, Bard, and Kennedy are going to result in pitchers like Kyle Drabek and Brett Anderson sneaking into the top-10 or maybe even the top-5? Drabek has great stuff, and both Drabek and Anderson are polished players with pro pedigree. If you were a ML scouting director, where would these two, plus guys like Dellin Betances and Jordan Walden, fit into your draft board?

Sorry about the lengthy questions. My two questions are more like 10 related questions.

Thanks for the consistenly good draft coverage!

Jerry, thanks for the questions. We'll be talking more about my specific draft board as the date comes closer, so keep your eye out.

Morrow is, without question, a top ten pick in the draft. His command has been wishy-washy this spring, but he has continued to show the ability to dominate that began in the Cape. His great fastball and plus splitter provide him with a nice fallback option as a future reliever. He could go as high as third overall, though 4-7 is more likely.

No pitcher has been as consistent this spring as Brad Lincoln, who only has had one outing that doesn't qualify as a "quality start." His athleticism is unparalleled, but he doesn't offer the package that other pitchers do. His ceiling isn't close to Morrow's, which I think leaves him at the 4 spot among college pitchers, with really only the ability to fall. He's a top ten pick right now, a top twenty pick for sure. Where he falls will depend as much on Kennedy, Bard, and Chamberlain as it will himself.

Of the pitchers you mention, I have only seen video of Kyle Drabek pitch. He was fantastic, and the reports I have heard are all positive. My guess is that he is third on most draft boards, second on some, fourth or fifth on others. At this point, I'd be shocked if Doug's son didn't become the first prep player taken off the board, and drafted in the top five.

As far as the other pitchers go, I'm super-intrigued by Betances, a 6-9 raw pitcher from Brooklyn. His consistency comes and goes, like many Northeast players in the past, but size and stuff alone makes him a top 15 player in my book. Anderson is the type of prep pitcher that really succeeds, far more polished than his peers. At this point, he's the only other prep pitcher that I think is guaranteed a top ten selection (besides Drabek). Finally, I'm not a big Walden fan, as I think he and Colten Williams entered the year overrated because of velocity readings. Still, some teams value this, and neither player will slip past the first round, with Walden possibly in the top 15.

Thanks again!

Lincecum's detractor's have always talked about his risk for injury or questioned his durability due to his size, but I have tried to find ONE instance where this guy has missed a start or been injured his entire collegiate career (including summer ball) and cannot find one. I got to see him throw against my ASU Sun-Devils and it was ridiculous! His delivery is not as bad as people have said (maybe he's toned it down?) and the ball comes out of his hand real easy. It seemed like he was throwing gas even in the 9th inning. I could see him going in the first few picks and going straight to the big leagues or at least sometime in the summer.

Bryan, thanks for the insights and info on these draft guys! What do you know about Hughes' LBSU teammate Andrew Carpenter? I haven't heard him mentioned much before you. Also, I keep seeing Steven Wright from Hawaii putting up numbers every week (not sure what kind of "stuff" he has) is he more of a top couple rounder as opposed to a first-round guy?

John, thanks for the comments on Lincecum. I think a lot of people are coming around on the Washington right-hander, and I would not be surprised to see Seattle use their fifth choice on the hometown boy. I, for the reasons listed above, am just not an advocate.

I'll let Rich answer your question on Carpenter, as he is the one of us with a first-hand account of him.

I have liked Wright for awhile, and mentioned him in a past column as a potential sleeper. However, his stuff is simply not first-round caliber. Wright is a sinker/slider pitcher with a fastball that just isn't high enough, and a slider with just not enough tilt. I love the guy, and really believe whoever drafts him in the third round (or so) will make a great pick. He's the anti-Walden.

With respect to Carpenter, I'll give you info on his background, stats, and awards, as well as a brief scouting report.

At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Carpenter is a pretty big kid with thick thighs. The right-hander pitched at Chico State his freshman year, transferred to Sacramento JC his sophomore year, then Long Beach State for his junior year. He had committed to Oklahoma but changed his mind in the aftermath of the coaching upheaval, which cost Larry Cochell his job and the Sooners a starting pitcher.

Carpenter was the Big West's co-Pitcher of the Week (his third weekly honor of the season), following a complete game four-hitter at CS Northridge on Saturday. He struck out a career-high 10 to boost is record to 5-2 and lower his ERA to 2.96. Opponents are batting .218 against him. He has K'd 60 batters and walked just 13 in 73 IP.

Andrew throws five pitches (fastball, splitter, curve, slider, and changeup). His fastball generally sits at about 89-91 mph. His out pitch is the splitter, which he used to induce 13 groundouts (vs. only 3 flyouts) vs. CSUN.

I see Carpenter as an innings eater who throws strikes and makes good use of his defense. He seems like the type of pitcher Walt Jocketty and the Cardinals might be interested in drafting.

Thanks Rich, is Carpenter pushing his way into possible first-rounder consideration? Sounds like a polished college pitcher that will move quickly for sure.

Perhaps Carpenter could forge his way into the first round--especially if he was willing to take less than slot money--but Andrew seems to me to be more of a supplemental or second round pick.