We’re in full draft mode at Baseball America. I’ve been focusing on our Midwest regional coverage, which (like most of our Draft Preview content) will appear in the magazine and on the website starting in mid-May. If you can’t wait that long for some draft fodder to sink your teeth into, check out the hypothetical first round that Conor Glassey, John Manuel and I put together by alternating picks and trying to stay true to what each team might do.
I made Georgia Tech lefthander Jed Bradley the third overall pick by the Diamondbacks before UCLA righty Trevor Bauer struck out 17 Stanford hitters on Saturday. If we were restarting this exercise today, I’d take Bauer at No. 3. And I’d be mighty tempted by Owasso (Okla.) High righthander Dylan Bundy.
Speaking of first-round prospects . . .
- Assuming Texas Christian lefthander Matt Purke's shoulder soreness turns out to be minor, how much will it affect his stock? Would you still predict him to get popped in the first round, assuming doctors give him a clean bill of health? Also, I'm a fan of South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley and was disappointed to see he'll be out indefinitely with tendon damage in his left wrist. Could the injury push him out of the first round?
The injury situations with Purke and Bradley are entirely different. Purke’s draft status is contingent on him returning to the mound and showing the stuff that made him a first-round pick out of high school in 2009 and BA’s Freshman of the Year in 2010. Bradley’s status won’t change much at all, even if he were to miss the remainder of the season
Purke has been shut down indefinitely with shoulder soreness and visited Dr. James Andrews last week for an examination, the results of which have yet to be made public. In his last outing, Purke saw his velocity drop to 84-86 mph by the fourth inning. After he worked with a lively 91-94 mph fastball and a nasty slider in 2010, his stuff hasn’t been as crisp this spring.
Even if Purke gets a clean bill of health, there will be some teams that wonder how well he’ll hold up in the future. Before the season started, some scouts already had expressed concerns about his low arm slot and the fact that he took the summer and fall off after pitching 116 innings as a freshman.
Purke entered the season as a projected top-five-overall pick, and that probably is out of reach now. But if he fully regains his fastball and slider, he could receive a very lucrative payday, much like Anthony Ranaudo did last summer. Ranaudo began 2010 as the draft’s top college prospect before a stress reaction in his elbow ruined his junior season at Louisiana State. He fell to the Red Sox with the 39th overall pick but earned a $2.55 million bonus after returning to form in the Cape Cod League.
I could see Purke going the same route, with a team monitoring him in summer ball before deciding how much to spend on him. His situation already is more complicated than most. The Rangers agreed to pay him $6 million as the 14th overall pick two years ago, before MLB (which controlled the team’s finances at that point) killed the deal. That won’t help his signability, nor will his added leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore.
Bradley hurt his wrist diving for a ball on Saturday. That injury shouldn’t affect his long-term value or where he’ll go in the draft, though it may end any chance he had to snap out of a prolonged slump that had dropped his season averages to .259/.361/.468. He batted .368/.473/.587 in 2010, when he won MVP honors at the College World Series and led the Gamecocks to their first national championship.
Though Bradley hasn’t performed as well this season with the new bats, I still believe he’ll go in the second half of the first round. There are enough teams that believe in his ability to hit and play center field at a high level. If he falls to the sandwich round, it will be because of his play this spring and his lack of a standout physical tool, not his injury.
- What is your take on the prospects coming out of the state of Connecticut lately? Can you rank the recent prospects from the state?
Connecticut’s talent is definitely on the rise. After producing five first-round picks in the 1980s, the state’s colleges and high schools didn’t have another until the Phillies selected outfielder Anthony Hewitt 24th overall in 2008. While Hewitt’s bat has yet to catch caught up to his athleticism, that still was a banner year for Nutmeg State high schoolers. That prep class also included: Chris Dwyer, Hewitt’s teammate at Salisbury Prep, who spent a year at Clemson and is now one of the best lefty pitching prospects in the minors; current University of Connecticut teammates Matt Barnes and George Springer, projected 2011 first-rounders who will surpass Charles Nagy as the highest-drafted Huskies ever; and Jason Esposito, who’s now at Vanderbilt and figures to go in the sandwich round.
Connecticut natives who went to out-of-state colleges have gone in the first round of the last two drafts, Notre Dame outfielder A.J. Pollock to the Diamondbacks in 2009 and North Carolina righthander Matt Harvey to the Mets in 2010. The Ranger also took UConn third baseman Mike Olt in the sandwich round last June.
Here’s a Top 10 list of prospects with Connecticut ties from the 2008-11 drafts:
1. Chris Dwyer, lhp, Royals
Plus fastball/curve combo earned him $1.45 million bonus as a 2009 fourth-rounder.
2. Matt Harvey, rhp, Mets
Seventh overall pick in 2010 hasn’t allowed an earned run in first four pro starts.
3. George Springer, of, UConn
Top college athlete in 2011 draft class has recovered from a slow start.
4. Matt Barnes, rhp, UConn
His power arm will put him with Springer in the top half of this year’s first round.
5. A.J. Pollock, of, Diamondbacks
Sizzling in Double-A after missing all of 2010 with an elbow injury.
6. Mike Olt, 3b, Rangers
Huskies’ career home run leader is slugging .607 in high Class A.
7. Jason Esposito, 3b, Vanderbilt
He’s a gifted hitter with pop who runs the bases well and plays a slick third base.
8. Nick Ahmed, ss, UConn
One of the top defensive college shortstops, he’ll be a second- to fourth-rounder in June.
9. Jesse Hahn, rhp, Rays
Harvey’s Fitch HS (Groton) teammate hit 97 mph before Tommy John surgery last July.
10. Pierre LePage, 2b, Cubs
Excellent contact hitter who’s a threat on the bases and gets the job done defensively.
- How good is Rockies lefthander Rex Brothers and how soon until we see him in the majors? Though the Triple-A Pacific Coast League is a hitter's league, Brothers had been dominating it and not getting enough notice. In eight appearances this season, he hasn't allowed an earned run while striking out 16 in nine innings. When will he become Colorado's closer?
For a guy who was the 34th overall pick in the 2009 draft and has breezed through the minors with little difficulty, Brothers does seem to fly under the radar. Considering his stuff, performance, clean medical history and the bonus that he’s lefthanded, he’s as good as any relief prospect in the minors.
Brothers usually pitches at 92-95 mph with his fastball and is capable of touching 97. Though he’s only 6 feet tall, he uses a high arm slot to throw on a downhill angle, and he has good run on his fastball. His mid-80s slider has late tilt and gives him a second out pitch.
Once Brothers develops consistent control and command, he’ll get the call to Colorado. He’s off to a good start, cutting his walk rate from 5.0 per nine innings in 2009-10 to 3.0 in the early going. Huston Street is doing just fine as the Rockies’ current closer, but Brothers could be ready to finish games by the end of 2012 if needed.