Major league clubs still are waiting for a player to step forward as the obvious No. 2 prospect in this draft behind San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg. Two more candidates are about to throw their hats in the ring, as righthanders Aaron Crow and Tanner Scheppers are about to join independent league clubs.
Crow and Scheppers both will make appearances in American Association exhibition games on Monday, with Crow taking the mound for the Fort Worth Cats and Scheppers pitching for the St. Paul Saints.
A year ago in our Draft Preview , we rated Crow (then at Missouri) as the fifth-best prospect and Scheppers (then at Fresno State) as the 10th-best in the 2008 draft, and they were the top two righthanders overall. The Nationals drafted Crow at No. 9, but his agents (the Hendricks brothers) and the club never found any common ground and ended up $500,000 part at the Aug. 15 deadline, with Crow seeking $4 million and turning down $3.5 million. Scheppers hurt his shoulder in April—with conflicting reports as to the specific injury and how it occurred—and went to the Pirates in the second round. Pittsburgh evaluated him at the end of the summer but ultimately decided not to sign him.
The two pitchers opted to showcase themselves in independent ball rather than return for their senior seasons of college. Crow actually signed with Fort Worth on Aug. 13, and he pitched an inning for them after negotiations broke down with Washington. Scheppers, who opted for rehab over surgery, signed with St. Paul in September.
They hope to follow in the footsteps of former Cats Luke Hochevar, who used his indy league stint as a springboard to going No. 1 overall in the 2006 draft (and receiving a $5.25 million contract from the Royals), and Max Scherzer, who parlayed his stay in Fort Worth into a $4.3 million deal with the Diamondbacks shortly before he would have re-entered the 2007 draft.
They’ve both been working out in advance of joining their indy clubs, Crow quietly on the Missouri campus and Scheppers in some intrasquad games at Golden West (Calif.) JC.
Missouri pitching coach Tony Vitello said he hadn’t seen any radar-gun readings, but that Crow’s fastball (which BA rated as the best in the draft among college pitchers last year) looked as formidable as ever, as did his sharp slider. Vitello noted that Crow had used his time off to get into tremendous physical condition and to hone a changeup that he didn’t use much in college.
Scheppers has performed in front of scouts, who were buzzing about his third outing at Golden West. He sat at 93-96 mph with his fastball and showed a hard breaking ball, just as he did before he got hurt.
"We saw him really, really good," an American League scouting director said. "Our guys said he’s going in the first five picks, the top 10 for sure."
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