Gazing Through Binoculars (Part 2)
Pitching dominated the discussion surrounding the 2006 draft, as a record was almost broken with the number of pitchers selected in the first round. On Tuesday, we noted that position players will be back in style on the college ranks next year.
Today, I'm here to say we won't have to compromise simultaneously and see a letdown in the arms category.
A year before the draft, I noted Andrew Miller as a top guy, mentioning the worst teams were in the 'AM race.' A big lefthander with a long profile, Miller had control issues but the ability to strike out players in bunches. Experience and projectablity don't mesh often. They did in 2006, and they will in 2007.
While I'm no longer as confident as I was in April, David Price is right in the mix to be named the top pick in a year. A Vanderbilt lefthander, Price was a highly thought of prep arm, and went on to strike out 92 in 69 innings his freshman season. Early season dominance wore Price out as the year went on, but his season ending marks -- 3.81 ERA, 84 H/104 IP, 147 K/38 BB -- still were good enough to be named a Golden Spikes finalist.
Expect Price to gain more consideration for the award next season, as he'll surely spend the summer and fall working on endurance. If he makes strides in that category like he did control a year ago, Price should be the favorite to go 1-1. However, he faces worthy opponents in (high schoolers) Mike Main and Robert Stock, as well as (top collegiate position player) Matt Wieters.
Like Wieters, Price doesn't face a lot of competition for the king of the collegiate pitching mountain. However, there are a host of arms that will belong in the first round. Fellow hard-throwing SEC southpaw Nick Schmidt might be the best of the second tier, and his sophomore season was better than Price's in the same environment. In 108.2 innings, Schmidt struck out 135 while allowing just 80 hits. His breaking pitch is fantastic; his control (48 walks) is not.
Control is Wes Roemer's strength, and while he won't go in the top ten, Roemer went a far way in assuring himself a place in the first round this spring. A worthy candidate for the Player of the Year award, Roemer's 145/7 K-BB rate never fails to look like a misprint. His stuff isn't great, and his inning totals are high, but when working in the low 90s with a good slider (which he does often), Roemer is undoubtedly worthy of a top 30 selection.
Also pitching for a big program on Friday nights, I am a big fan of Sean Morgan, the righthander at Tulane. Home run prone, Morgan's 3.51 ERA is scary, especially considering the ballpark that Tulane played in this season. However, he has the strikeouts (125) and control (39 walks) to merit being in the discussion. Morgan will have to minimize the extra-base hits he allows next season, his slugging against (.370 in 2006) will go a long way in determining his draft position.
Expect the number of two-way players drafted as pitchers drafted in the first round to double between 2006 and 2007; for one Brad Lincoln, next year's class offers Sean Doolittle (Virginia) and Joe Savery (Rice). Oh, and unlike Lincoln, these two are southpaws. I'm far higher on Doolittle, his sub-2.00 ERA and amazing set of peripherals speaks volumes to his talent, big pitching park be damned. Expect him to lead Team USA this summer.
I'm a bit more wary of Savery, who had shoulder tendinitis minimize his innings total this season. Even when healthy in the postseason, Rice rarely turned to Savery - a bad indicator. As is his status as a pitcher for the Rice program, so take his 129 Freshman strikeouts with a grain of salt. Savery's potential should allow him to go top 15 (possibly top five), but he'll come with as many caveats as anyone.
On Tuesday, we talked about the lack of shortstops in the '06 draft. From a pitching standpoint, the draft also lacked closers, the growing trend that didn't really offer a first round talent this season. That will change next year, as Josh Fields is great in that role for Georgia. Teams will love his walk rate (11 BB in 50 IP), his strikeouts (56), and his miniscule slugging against (.257). Barring injury, he'll go in the first round next year.
In the northern Midwest, a pair of arms had lackluster seasons after dynamite freshman campaigns, and remain on the watch list. John Ely was just OK at Miami of Ohio, but the lefthander did allow 76 hits in 75.2 innings en route to a 3.57 ERA. He is one to watch, as is Ben Snyder from Ball State. Yes, his 4.45 ERA is ugly, but Snyder showed what he could do in regionals, beating top seeded Kentucky by allowing just one earned run in 8 innings.
Last for potential first rounders, I want to mention a guy that could be next season's Jeff Samardzija. While NC State righthander Andrew Brackman has stayed away from the football field, the 6-10 pitcher is a good frontcourt player for the Wolfpack. Unprepared for his sophomore season on the mound thanks to basketball, Brackman posted a 6.35 ERA in 28.1 innings before shutting it down. If he's smart, Brackman will realize where he has the most potential (baseball), and stick with it.
Finally, we should expect that summer performances will help pitcher's stocks next June, so I wanted to finish with a few potential Cape Cod League stars. Remember, without their summer in the Cape, guys like Brandon Morrow or Dave Huff would have not been so highly thought of.
The name I've been most outwardly floating around to people is Connor Graham, a righthander from Miami of Ohio. Graham is big (6-7, 240), and inconsistent, but could thrive in the closer's role this summer. He let his first run of the season this week, so don't expect a Craig Hansen summer. But do expect two Redhawks to be battling for draft position in 2007.
Another arm to look out for, though one I know less about, is Texas A&M righthander Chance Corgan (Update: Corgan transferred to TCU on May 31). Expected to be in the weekend rotation this spring, Corgan didn't get a ton of innings for the Aggies. In two starts out east, Corgan is making up for lost time, taking the league lead in strikeouts (19 - which he has since lost) in two scoreless starts spanning 14.1 innings. A big 2007 spring in the MWC could push Corgan way up draft boards.
This year's draft saw Steven Wright be taken high after a great summer closing at the Cape, and a good spring starting for Hawaii. Many believe the Wright they saw in short outings represents his future, despite his spring. Two potential arms that could face the same comments are Dan McDonald (Seton Hall) and Sam Demel (TCU). Demel has yet to allow a run in seven appearances (11 K in 7 IP), while McDonald has done him one better, not allowing a hit or walk in six scoreless innings (11 K).
Of course, these are just a few names that have been blips on a few radars this season. There will be a lot more examples of this during the summer, and I will try to stay abreast on each name that floats my way.