'07 Pitching Selection Requires Close Inspection
Many organizations consider college righthanders one of the safest
commodities in the draft. It's a position clubs have a wealth of
history to analyze, and a righty who offers at least average size with
a combination of average stuff and command is almost sure to go off the
board in the first five rounds.
The 2006 draft, panned early and
often by many scouts, had one significant strength--college
righthanders. Scouts could take their pick of power pitchers such as
North Carolina's Daniel Bard, Washington's Tim Lincecum, California's
Brandon Morrow and Missouri's Max Scherzer, who topped out with
fastballs in the upper 90s, or Houston's Brad Lincoln and his mid-90s
heater and power curve, or command pitchers with projectable frames
such as Southern California's Ian Kennedy, Stanford's Greg Reynolds and
Missouri State's Brett Sinkbeil. Throw in indy leaguer (and former
collegian) Luke Hochevar, and the draft had depth of power righties,
that stretched well into the second round with the likes of San Diego
State's Justin Masterson and Long Beach State's Drew Carpenter.
|TOP 10 RIGHTHANDED STARTERS|
|The draft class of 2007 has plenty of variety, but it's not the best year to find a righthanded starter. Still, it's easy to imagine all 10 of the pitchers below going in the first 65 picks--the end of the supplemental first round if the Diamondbacks fail to sign 2006 first rounder Max Scherzer.|
|1||Andrew Brackman, N.C. State||First round|
|2||Rick Porcello, Seton Hall Prep, W. Orange, N.J.||First|
|3||Matt Harvey, Fitch HS, Groton, Conn.||First|
|4||Michael Main, Deland (Fla.) HS||First|
|5||Neil Ramirez, Kempsville (Va.) HS.||First|
|6||Jake Arrieta, Texas Christian||First|
|7||Blake Beavan, Irving (Texas) HS||First/Supp.|
|8||Wes Roemer, Cal State Fullerton||First/Supp.|
|9||James Simmons, UC Riverside||First/Supp.|
|10||Bryan Augenstien, Florida||First/Supp.|
is not the case among the college class of 2007, however. Only North
Carolina State's Andrew Brackman has shown velocity similar to the Bard-Lincecum-Morrow- Scherzer quartet on a consistent basis, and while
Brackman was off to a strong start (3-0, 2.01, 24 strikeouts in 22
innings), he's one of the nation's most unique pitchers at a listed
6-foot-10, 230 pounds. His basketball background has kept him from
reaching 100 career college innings here a quarter of the way into his
And the only other college righthanded starters
among BA's three preseason All-America teams, voted on by major league
scouting directors, were two first-teamers--Texas Christian's Jake
Arrieta and Cal State Fullerton's Wes Roemer--and two third-teamers,
Florida's Brian Augenstein and UC Riverside's James Simmons.
other words, while the draft class as a whole has promise, one of the
trendiest categories of prospects--the college righthander pool--is
shallow by usual standards. Things are wide open for players who
weren't consensus early-round choices entering the season to jump up
draft boards. Teams still are going to want to draft college
righthanders; the question is, who will step forward to fill the void.
was making a bid in early March to do just that, as he ran his fastball
up to 92 mph in the ninth inning of an 11-strikeouts effort against
George Washington. Gators pitching coach Ross Jones said the greatest
improvement for Augenstein, who pitches primarily off a high-80s heavy
sinking fastball, was the addition of a mid-70s changeup to help combat
lefthanded hitters. He's also added some power to his low-80s slider,
giving him a chance to have three solid-average pitches down the line.
West Coast offers several candidates, such as the aforementioned Roemer
and Simmons. They're comparable in size, though Simmons is three inches
taller at a listed 6-foot-3. Simmons' early season performance also has
been better, and after his dominating effort in the Cape Cod League
last summer (5-1, 1.18, 44-5 K-BB ratio for Cotuit), he's primed to go
in the first round this spring.
Simmons made waves with a
complete-game, four-hit, 15-strikeout shutout of San Francisco in a
touted matchup with Dons lefty Aaron Poreda. However, Simmons threw 139
pitches in that game and threw a complete game with nine more whiffs
against San Diego State in his next outing. He didn’t fare nearly as
well after those two starts, giving up nine hits and seven runs in five
innings in a loss at Oklahoma. Through five starts, Simmons was 4-1,
2.38 with 38 strikeouts and six walks in 34 innings.
good out here, there's no doubt," said an area scout based in Southern
California who did not see Simmons against the Sooners. "His velocity's
been good, fastball sitting 88-91 (mph) and he's touched some 93s. He's
a four-pitch guy with command, more back-of-the-rotation than a
frontline guy. His slider's pretty good sometimes, but his curve's a
show-me pitch right now. With experience in pro ball, it could get
better, so he's got some improvement to make."
Gallagher, Loyola Marymount's Brad Meyers and Pepperdine's Barry
Enright are three other examples of West Coast righties who could move
up draft boards. Enright has slightly less stuff and command than
Simmons, and the junior wasn't at his best when the Waves visited East
Carolina for the annual Keith LeClair tournament. His fastball sat at
87-90 mph, and he didn't have his usual command of his slider, curve
and changeup. Still, he'd improved his stock with a 4-1, 1.46 start,
with just four walks (and just 18 strikeouts) in 37 innings.
an unsigned 14th-rounder out of high school in 2004, has more upside,
having shown consistent low-90s velocity in the past (as recently as
fall practice), but the 6-foot-6 righty--off to a 2-2, 3.09 start with
a 28-7 K-BB ratio in 35 innings--was sitting in the 86-88 mph range
with his fastball early this season for the Lions, according to one
scout. Gallagher had lost his Friday job already at Stanford and was
struggling with fastball command, according to coach Mark Marquess.
a little tentative with the fastball, and a lot of times when your
command isn’t good, you take a little bit off of it," Marquess said.
"He’s just not really throwing well. He’ll do it in spurts, but when
you’re starting, you can’t have just one or two good innings. We think
he’ll get it back; he’s a real hard worker, real dedicated.”Bumgarner Shines In 'Oscar Game'
N.C.--The stars come out in February at Oscar time. Baseball's
equivalent--well, the Baseball America equivalent--is a game, hopefully
in February, pitting more than one prospect where scouts come out in
full force. The dusty bleachers behind home plate at a high school
field turn into a red carpet of recognizable faces--many who flew in
that day from other parts of the country--of area scouts, crosscheckers
and scouting directors.
Such occasions have been dubbed "Oscar
games," because it gives scouts a rare chance during the spring to see
a prospect duel with another player with similar-caliber skills, and
such a night took place in western North Carolina on Feb. 28. More than
30 scouts descended on the chain-link-fenced field at St. Stephen's
High, on hand to see one of the best matchups the state can offer, and
the two high school pitchers who have committed to play collegiately at
North Carolina provided an intriguing contrast for the first game of
the season between South Caldwell and St. Stephens.
South Caldwell ace lefthander Madison Bumgarner was the main reason
scouts came out in such force, with crosscheckers and even a scouting
director in evidence, St. Stephens righty Patrick Johnson also put on a
show. Bumgarner, a physical 6-foot-4 southpaw who has drawn comparisons
to Chuck Finley and John Smiley, didn't disappoint. His fastball sat in
the 90-93 mph range for much of the evening and topped out at 94, and
he used his big frame to give the pitch good downhill plane and
While his slurvy slider isn't an average pitch at present, it has potential.
that arm angle (slightly below three-quarters), he's going to have a
sweepy slider, but it can work for him with that fastball," said one
scout on hand. "It's kind of like Randy Johnson, though obviously he's
not as good. If he commands his slider it will be effective even if it
doesn't have two-plane break.
"He's got plenty of athleticism and plenty of fastball."
showed his athletic ability both at the plate, where he batted
righthanded and looked the part with a decent swing, and by fielding
his position well. He worked quickly and handled several groundballs to
his left, to his right and tappers in front of him. He picked off three
runners at first base for good measure.
Johnson's time to
shine came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Having been pulled
after five innings on the mound (where he topped out near 90 mph and
showed a solid breaking ball), the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Johnson had the
night's best swing against Bumgarner when he hit an opposite-field
homer to tie the game at 1, forcing extra innings. South Caldwell won
it in the 11th, though not before scouts got a long look at its junior
righty Jimmy Messer, whose low-90s fastball and tight breaking ball
kept some straggling scouts around even after Bumgarner had been lifted.
"Johnson's a bulldog," said another scout, "a nice little pitcher, but he's probably going to have to go to (college)."
he has more showings like his opening-night performance, Bumgarner is
unlikely to join him, and more likely to be drafted in the first round
in June.Bascom's Curious Case
Bascom doesn't appear on Baseball America's list of the Top 50 seniors
for the 2007 draft, because he's not playing college baseball as a
He is taking 15 credit hours at Central Florida this
semester, though, and he is hoping that when he starts pitching every
weekend, as he was scheduled to do, scouts will be watching.
didn't anticipate his situation, and it is hard to remember a similar
one. Drafted last June, Bascom never officially signed, due to a
medical condition, and sought to return to school as a senior. However,
Central Florida declared him ineligible due to contact with an agent,
and a university spokesman called the case a "cut and dried situation."
while Bascom and his family mull litigation over the diagnosis of his
right knee--eventually, he had surgery to repair a torn ACL and
meniscus damage--he goes about repairing his baseball career.
22-year-old started to work out for scouts starting in late February
and early March, throwing prior to a pair of junior college game at St.
Petersburg CC. Bascom has worked out this offseason and thrown
bullpens. If he's healthy and throws well this spring, he apparently
will join an independent league team--most likely the Bradenton entry
in the new South Coast League, for its geographic convenience--for
three or four starts against live competition prior to the 2007 draft.
talent evaluators who had seen Bascom said he looked healthy in his
early work but was not yet as crisp as his 2005 form. He'd topped out
in the upper 80s with his fastball--one said he may have "scratched
90"--but both said his velocity was almost immaterial at this point.
is his spring training," one said. "He needs to gear up to pitch
against real hitters. No one's going to draft a college senior off some
Bascom would just like to start having a typical
career again. In three seasons with the Golden Knights--two as staff
ace--Bascom posted career 19-11, 3.10 numbers, and the 6-foot-2,
210-pounder boasted an impressive 225-71 strikeout-walk ratio in 221
career innings. His fastball had reached 94 mph at times as a
sophomore, but a right knee problem had kept him from throwing as hard
as a junior.
Scouts knew he was banged up--the Dunedin (Fla.)
High grad's father John had even supplied the Major League Scouting
Bureau with medical records on his knee injury. Still, Bascom battled
to a 2.48 ERA in 2006 (for the record, 48th-best in Division I), struck
out 90 in 80 innings and allowed just 62 hits for a below-par Central
Florida team that finished 23-33.
Bascom's fastball topped out
in the 91-92 mph range and sat in the upper 80s. A consensus
single-digit draft pick, the Padres took him in the sixth round, flew
him to Boise (for a physical) to join their Eugene club in the
short-season Northwest League, and negotiated a contract with him, but
when Bascom's knee didn't pass muster with them, the club backed away.
returned to school but wasn't allowed to play for the program again
after the school ruled his contact with agent David Sloan, acting as
his adviser, violated NCAA rules. UCF coach Jay Bergman referred calls
to the university's sports information office, and director Joe
Hornstein said that while the school wishes Bascom the best and thanks
him for his play there, the decision was not a difficult one.
had representation when dealing with the Padres," Hornstein said. "At
that point, he's not eligible by NCAA rules . . . At the end of the
day, his case was reviewed by the athletic department and (the
baseball) program, and unfortunately they came to the same conclusion."
Bascom has different ideas about his son's eligibility, his inability
to transfer to any NAIA schools for his final semester and the quality
of his son's medical treatment, but right now, what's more important to
him is getting Tim back on a mound, back throwing in front of scouts.
League Baseball has confirmed in an e-mail exchange with the elder
Bascom that Tim is eligible for the 2007 draft. The most high-profile
case in recent memory that was similar involved North Carolina
outfielder Tyrell Godwin, who failed a physical with the Rangers in
2000, then sat out his senior season at North Carolina to rehabilitate
his own knee injury before signing with the Blue Jays in 2001 after
they drafted him in the third round.
Godwin eventually reached
the major leagues, albeit for three hitless at-bats in 2005 with the
Nationals. Bascom's father just wants his son to get a similar chance
at playing professional baseball.
"Our family is full of
baseball guys, back to the 19th century," Bascom said. "Tim's had to be
on kind of a roller coaster ride lately, but things are settling down
now . . . He's just trying to play baseball again."DRAFT DOPE
• High Point junior righthander Eammon Portice
didn't pass his first big test of the season, giving up nine runs
(seven earned) in 41⁄3 innings in a loss to Clemson. The 6-foot-2,
185-pounder had one of the more intriguing arms in the Cape Cod League
last summer and was a 17th-round pick of the Twins in 2004 out of Fort
Lauderdale (Fla.) High. He was 0-5, 6.30 in the Cape for Bourne but had
45 strikeouts and just nine walks in 30 innings. This spring through
three starts, he was doing similar work, off to an 0-2, 7.63 start with
19 strikeouts and five walks in 15 innings. "In his first two starts,
Portice was inconsistent," coach Sal Bando Jr.
said. "In his first start (against UNC Charlotte) he . . . was sitting
at 89-91 mph (with his fastball) and topping out at 94. And his
split-finger and curveball were on. In his second start, he got too
amped up for the game with South Florida and ended up flat out of the
gate--topped out at 89, didn't get ahead and the ball was up. I think
you will see over the course of the season more outings like his first
than his second."
• Two raw high school talents were leaping up draft boards early in the season. Jonesboro (Ark.) High outfielder Delta Cleary
was the consensus choice as Arkansas' top high school talent, and with
football and basketball season over, the lanky 6-foot-3, 175-pound
three-sport athlete was finally focused on baseball. His lack of a
college commitment was seen by scouts and college recruiters as a
strong sign of his desire to play pro baseball. One recruiter said his
tools remained raw but projected to be average to plus across the
board. Showing more present stuff was Mississippi high schooler Wendell Fairley
, who drew some comparisons to Indians prospect Tony Sipp
because of his athleticism, size and two-way talent. Like Sipp, Fairley
has a solid-average fastball (88-92 mph) and good downer curveball,
which he displayed in front of around 50 scouts in a mid-February game
for George County High in Lucedale, Miss. But unlike Sipp, Fairley
pitches righthanded, so scouts may be more tempted by his lefthanded
bat. While his hit tool requires a lot of projection, he has one of the
prep class' better combinations of above-average speed and raw power.
Fairley has committed to Southern Mississippi for baseball.
More than 40 scouts and hundreds of fans packed the stands on a Friday
night in March to take in another showdown game between two of Tampa's
top preps. Righthander Nevin Griffith
(Middleton High) has been one of the Sunshine State's biggest movers
this spring, thanks to his loose, easy arm action, and he punctuated
his strong start with a complete-game victory against Hillsborough
High, and one of the class' most powerful hitters in right fielder Mike Burgess
Griffith surrendered a fisted, opposite-field single to Burgess, but
also retired him on strikes, thanks to a hard slider and fastball that
was up to 94 mph.
• Missouri State produced a first-rounder in Brett Sinkbeil
(Marlins, 19th overall) last year, but lanky lefthander Ross Detwiler
has a chance to go even higher this season. The 6-foot-4, 175-pounder
has one of the best combinations of present stuff and projection in the
'07 draft class, and he'd gotten off to a strong start. After sitting
in the 92-94 mph range with his fastball in a dominating 13-strikeouts
effort against Dallas Baptist, Detwiler "struggled" in his second
outing against Middle Tennessee State. His fastball sat in the 90-92
range and just touched 94, and his command of his slurvy, power
curveball was inconsistent while his change lagged behind. Without his
best stuff, he tossed seven scoreless frames, gave up just two hits and
fanned seven. "I think he has first-round stuff," one talent evaluator
said. "The arm works, and he is so thin that I think as he gains weight
he can become even better. (Missouri State pitching coach) Paul Evans
has done a great job with him."Contributing: Alan Matthews.