Ask BA

We’re two weeks away from the start of the 2011 draft, and our coverage will really kick into gear tomorrow when we unveil our overall Top 200 Prospects list, complete with detailed scouting reports and statistics. We’ll start unveiling our state-by-state coverage on Wednesday, and we’ll update our initial first-round projection with another on Friday.

Next week, we’ll keep rolling out more state lists, more first-round projections and more draft information. We’ll be part of the television coverage of the draft for the fifth straight year, as I’ll contribute to the MLB Network broadcast. MLB Network plans on marrying our Top 200 list to its touchboard technology, which should be cool.

    How would you compare this year's top high school pitchers, Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley, and last year's best, Jameson Taillon? At the time of their drafts, which guy had the most upside and which was closest to the majors?

    Bill Elzer
    Pittsburgh

Bradley entered the year as our top-rated high school pitching prospect for the 2011 draft, and after a slow start, he finished as strong as ever. He hit 101 mph on the scoreboard radar gun and backed up his heat with a hammer curveball while winning the Oklahoma 6-A state championship game. He’s also a quality athlete who’s a top quarterback recruit ticketed for Oklahoma.

Nevertheless, Bradley isn’t even the best prep pitcher in his state. That honor belongs to Bundy, whose talent borders on the ridiculous. He has a 94-97 mph fastball that has reached triple digits, plus secondary pitches in his curveball and cutter and a solid changeup. He has exceptional feel for pitching to match his stuff.

Taillon was the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, and the Pirates say they would have taken him over Bryce Harper if they had owned the first choice. There’s not much to separate them, but I’d rate Bundy ahead of Taillon, with Bradley behind them both. Taillon had a fastball/curveball combo similar to Bradley’s, but Bundy’s third and fourth pitches are better and he also has more polish, which makes him more big league-ready. Taillon had a more classic pitcher’s body at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, but Bundy makes up for his lack of size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) with his strength and by creating a deceptive angle to the plate.

I asked a veteran scouting director this question, and he texted back about Bundy: “Best HS arm/pitcher I’ve ever seen!!!” He may not go higher than Taillon did, but that says more about the abundance of college pitching talent in the 2011 draft than of any shortcoming on Bundy’s part.

    How much longer will it be before someone looks at Royals first baseman Clint Robinson as a legitimate prospect who's ready for the big leagues? You have commented in the past that he has been old for his leagues, but a career line of .312/.379/.546 in five pro seasons has to be taken seriously at some point, doesn't it?

    Derek Thomas
    Saskatoon, Sask.

Robinson has blown away all expectations since signing for $1,000 as a 25th-round pick after his senior season at Troy in 2007. He had the best season of his career in 2010, winning the Double-A Texas League triple crown with .335-29-98 numbers, and has raked to the tune of .352/.434/.630 this year at Triple-A Omaha.

For all Robinson’s success, scouts still don’t believe that his hitting ability and power are going to be better than average tools, and holding down a major league first-base job will require more than average offense. He has well below-average speed and is a defensive liability, so he’ll have to keep producing like he has in the minors to get regular playing time in the majors.

Robinson is 26 and has little left to prove in the minors. It’s time to find out what he can do in Kansas City. But his biggest problem is the presence of Eric Hosmer at first base and Billy Butler at DH. Both are younger than Robinson and don’t figure to leave a spot in the lineup for him anytime soon. He may need an injury to create an opportunity, and he better seize it when it comes.

    As a Twins fan, I was alarmed when righthander Alex Wimmers walked all six batters he faced in his first start of the season. Given how he was placed on the disabled list after the game, I have to assume that his wildness didn't come out of nowhere. That said, are there any positive stories of pitchers with extreme wildness coming back to have successful careers?

    Charles Berg
    West Vancouver, B.C.

    What have you heard anything about Alex Wimmers' sudden loss of command?

    Marc Downie
    Chaska, Minn.

Wimmers was the 21st overall pick in the 2010 draft, in large part because of his ability to throw strikes with three solid pitches. After signing late in the summer, he posted a 0.57 ERA and walked just five batters in four starts at high Class A Fort Myers. His problems this season were totally unexpected.

Wimmers missed a week with a hamstring strain in spring training, and the Twins believe the injury may have affected his arm angle and led to his command woes. They haven’t set a timetable for his return and aren’t saying much about his struggles, in order to avoid putting any more pressure on him. Minnesota has gone through a similar situation with 2008 supplemental first-rounder Shooter Hunt, who has walked 195 batters in 172 pro innings and hasn’t been able to advance past Fort Myers.

The Twins moved quickly to shut down Wimmers—he went on the disabled list with “flu-like symptoms”—and are hoping he can work through his difficulties in extended spring training. He focused on his conditioning and mechanics and went more than a month before facing a batter.

When a pitcher’s control disintegrates completely, it usually doesn’t come back. The one exception I can think of is Mark Wohlers. He had saved 97 games for the Braves over the previous three seasons before suddenly losing the strike zone in 1998. After three years and a change in organizations, Wohlers returned to effectiveness with the Reds in 2001. Elbow problems ended his career two years later.

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