Baseball BeatMay 25, 2009
High School, College, and Minor League Notes
By Rich Lederer

The Major League Baseball Draft will be held two weeks from tomorrow. The first day (Tuesday, June 9), which will consist of the first three rounds plus two compensation rounds, will be televised live by the MLB Network at 6:00 p.m. (ET). The draft will resume on Wednesday (fourth through 30th rounds) and conclude on Thursday (31st-50th rounds).

Baseball Analysts will live blog the draft once again, posting player profiles and comments as picks are unveiled. We plan to kick off our pre-draft coverage on Thursday, holding a Q&A with Jim Callis, Baseball America's resident draft expert. As in the past, we will also bring you interviews with several top prospects, including Tanner Scheppers, who returns to the draft this year after failing to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates last summer. In addition, we will provide post-draft analysis, including Marc Hulet's shadow draft.

* * *

Two years ago, I interviewed Josh Vitters, who was selected by the Chicago Cubs with the third overall pick in the 2007 draft. Due to a nagging hand injury, Vitters' pro career got off to a slow start, hitting a combined .118/.164/.118 in 55 plate appearances over two levels (Rookie and Short Season). He bounced back in 2008, putting up a .322/.357/.495 line, mostly at Boise in the Short Season Northwest League. The 6-3, 200-pound third baseman is taking it to a new level in 2009, raking at a .355/.381/.612 clip at Peoria in the Low-A Midwest League. He had five consecutive three-hit games from May 14-19 and has slugged seven HR in his past nine games.

While Vitters is drawing rave reviews (landing atop Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet for the past week), he has drawn only three walks in 160 plate appearances. Look for the aggressive-hitting Vitters to get promoted to Daytona of the High-A Florida State League soon but keep an eye on his BB/SO ratio as an indicator of his upside potential.

* * *

I interviewed Kyle Skipworth, who Baseball America called "the best prep prospect at that position since Joe Mauer was the first pick in the 2001 draft," as part of our pre-draft coverage last year. Skipworth was taken by the Florida Marlins with the sixth overall pick and signed within a couple of weeks for a $2.3 million bonus. The lefthanded-hitting catcher has had a difficult time adjusting to pro baseball. However, his struggles in the Rookie League last year (.208/.263/.340) weren't atypical for a kid who had just turned 18 the previous March. Unfortunately, Skipworth appears to have regressed this season, hitting .174/.222/.294 at Greensboro in the Low-A South Atlantic League. Worse yet, he has struck out 44 times (with only seven walks) in 118 plate appearances.

More than anything, it just goes to show that scouting young baseball players is an inexact science and that some players develop more quickly than others while others never pan out. Only time will tell if Skipworth will become part of the first or second camp.

* * *

Remember Bryce Harper? Well, it's time to revisit the 16-year-old sophomore from Las Vegas High School. The Wildcats completed their 2009 season about ten days ago and, according to Baseball America, Harper put up the following statistics:


The numbers look like they came right out of one of those video games where you can rig the system by creating the best possible player in the world. But these stats are the real deal. Harper hit eight of his 14 HR in the final seven games and ended the season on a 23-game hitting streak. One can only wonder why any team would even pitch to him at all.

Harper won't turn 17 until October 1. In the meantime, there's no rest for the young. He is expected to play in a full slate of wood bat summer league games. I'm hopeful of watching him perform in the Area Code Games in Long Beach once again and will keep readers apprised of the progress made by the slam dunk No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the here and now draft, check out the stats for a college pitcher out of San Diego State that you may have heard a little bit about:

13-0 141422102.0571514191803.1641.24

The only question that remains is not whether Stephen Strasburg, who leads the nation in ERA and Ks, is taken first overall but how much he signs for ($10 million, $15 million, $20 million, $25 million, or the $50 million that the Scott Boras Corporation has reportedly floated out there)? Seeing that he is already on my fantasy baseball team, my hope is that he inks a contract well before the August 15 deadline and pitches for the Washington Nationals this year.

* * *

Patrick Schuster, the Mitchell HS (New Port Richey, FL) pitcher who jumped into the national spotlight when he threw four consecutive no-hitters this season, is projected by Baseball America to go in the fifth or sixth round of the June draft. Look for the lefthander with four pitches, including a fastball that ranges from 87-92 mph, to make good on his commitment to the University of Florida if he's not drafted higher than that. You can view highlights of his slingshot delivery and an interview on ESPN's First Take here.

* * *

The top two high school southpaws in this year's draft are Tyler Matzek (Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, CA) and Matthew Purke (Klein HS, Spring, TX). I was impressed with both when I watched them pitch back-to-back, 1-2-3 innings in the AFLAC All-American Classic on TV last August. They each struck out two batters. Matzek throws four pitches but relies on a fastball that hit 93 twice that afternoon and a sharp-breaking curveball while Purke's more electric fastball out of a three-quarters arm slot touched 95. The latter may be a tougher sign as he has agreed to attend Texas Christian and will be a draft-eligible sophomore in 2011.

* * *

Update: The links to organizational statistics in our sidebar on the left have been updated for the 2009 season. Thanks to, you can access any player's major or minor league stats with one click. Go to the section labeled Reference, choose a team, then click on either "Bat" or "Pitch" and you will be taken to that club's complete list of major and minor league hitters or pitchers.

Furthermore, we have also updated our sidebar for the 2009 Draft Order for the first round and supplemental round. This information is courtesy of Baseball America.