Draft Scouting Reports: Righthanders
Strasburg is the best, but there's depth behind him
Our rankings and scouting reports are based on conversations with major league front-office personnel, scouts, and college and high school coaches in the weeks leading up to the draft. The scouting reports were written by Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, Conor Glassey, John Manuel and David Perkin.
When talking about righthanders for this draft, it's Stephen Strasburg and everyone else, but everyone else is pretty good too. The righthanders have both depth and premium arms at both the high school and college levels.
1. Stephen Strasburg,San Diego State
Stephen Strasburg (Photo by Larry Goren)
In the history of the draft, no prospect has received as much predraft hype and publicity as Strasburg—and the attention is warranted. His combination of stuff, pitching savvy and command make him a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. Between spreads in national magazines, television features and glowing articles in major newspapers, Strasburg has had a stunning junior season for the Aztecs. A relatively low-profile recruit, he has improved by leaps and bounds both physically and mentally as a college player. He closed as a freshman and BA ranked him as the New England Collegiate League's No. 1 prospect in 2007, and he emerged as a dominant starter in 2008, highlighted by a 23-strikeout effort against Utah. He pitched both for USA Baseball's college national team and then on the Olympic team last summer, the lone amateur ever to win a spot on a pro Team USA roster. He lost to Cuba in the Olympic semifinal, and that's the last time he has lost a game. His 2009 statistics defy belief for a player competing at the major college level. After a no-hitter against Air Force, he was 11-0, 1.24, with 164 strikeouts against 17 walks in 87 innings. He had allowed just 48 hits this season, for a .161 opponent average. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Strasburg grabs your attention first with his sensational raw velocity. In his first start of the season, his first six pitches registered 98-99 mph, and he touched 100 and 101 later in the season. Of course, raw velocity is no guarantee of major league success, but Strasburg has much more than that. His hard, slurvy curveball is an 81-82 mph hitter's nightmare. Not since Tim Lincecum has one hurler had both the best fastball and the best curve in the same draft. Represented by Scott Boras Corp., Strasburg will no doubt engage in protracted negotiations, and predraft rumors indicated his demands could go as high as $50 million or that he could try a side trip to Japan to make himself a free agent. Barring something unforeseen, though, he will likely sign right at the Aug. 15 deadline and should command a guarantee in the $12 million-$15 million range. There's no doubt that Strasburg is the best college pitching prospect since Mark Prior came out of Southern California in 2001. Prior's career illustrates that no amateur pitcher is guaranteed long-term professional success, but Strasburg is the closest to a sure thing that scouts have ever seen. Major league organizations may not see a prospect like Strasburg for another 20 or 30 years, so the Nationals will not let him pass with the No. 1 pick.
2. Alex White, North Carolina
Alex White (Photo by Alyson Boyer)
The Dodgers drafted White in the 14th round in 2006 and made a strong run to sign him, but he wound up at North Carolina, spending three seasons in the weekend rotation and emerging as the staff ace as a sophomore. White was electric for the Tar Heels out of the bullpen in the 2008 College World Series, sitting at 96 mph with excellent life on his fastball, and some scouts see him in that role. However, he has shown three plus pitches at times during his career, though not all at once in a somewhat inconsistent junior season. White's arm action varied a bit during the year, starting out a bit high and long in the back, and despite his excellent athleticism this caused him to struggle to command his fastball. The pitch touches the mid-90s and sits in the 91-94 mph range when White starts. His slider, a plus pitch at times, also has lacked consistency, but his split-finger fastball has supplanted it as his best secondary pitch. It has good depth and deception and neutralizes lefthanded hitters. As good as his stuff can be, White's competitiveness and athleticism may be better attributes. With more consistency he could become a front-of-the-rotation starter, though his command may preclude him from being a true big league ace.
3. Kyle Gibson, Missouri
Kyle Gibson (Photo by John Williamson)
For the third time in four years, Missouri will have a pitcher taken early in the first round. Gibson doesn't have the arm strength of Max Scherzer (2006, Diamondbacks) or Aaron Crow (2008, Nationals), but he may wind up being the best pitcher of the three. He relies on two-seam fastballs more than four-seamers, usually pitching at 88-91 mph with good sink and tailing action, though he can reach back for 94 mph when needed. He has two of the better secondary pitches in the draft, a crisp 82-85 mph slider and a deceptive changeup with fade that can generate swings and misses. All of his offerings play up because he has excellent command and pitchability. He repeats his smooth delivery easily, and his 6-foot-6, 208-pound frame allows him to throw on a steep downhill plane. If there's a knock on Gibson, it's that he hasn't added much velocity during his three years with the Tigers, but that hasn't stopped him from succeeding as soon as he stepped on campus. He led Team USA's college team with five wins last summer, including a victory in the gold-medal game at the the FISU World Championships. He is a lock to go in the first 10 picks.
4. Tanner Scheppers, St. Paul Saints (American Association)
Tanner Scheppers (Photo by Linda Cullen)
Before Scheppers hurt his shoulder last April, he was on course to go in the first 10 picks of the 2008 draft. But the injury, initially reported as a stress fracture and later described as significant wear and tear, dropped him to 48th overall to the Pirates and caused him to miss Fresno State's run to a College World Series championship. Scheppers opted for rehab over surgery and worked out for Pittsburgh, but his stuff hadn't bounced back enough to warrant meeting his seven-figure asking price. He signed with the independent Saints last September. He began to excite scouts in preseason workouts at Golden West (Calif.) JC, displaying the mid-90s fastball and hard curveball he had before he got hurt. In his first two exhibition outings with St. Paul, Scheppers showed the same fastball and curve, though he battled his control. An athletic 6-foot-4, 200-pounder who initially signed with Fresno State as an infielder, Scheppers has good mechanics but sometimes rushes his delivery. "He's got the best arm action, delivery and stuff in this draft behind Strasburg, and it's a cleaner arm than Strasburg," one scouting director said. Scheppers is learning to harness his curveball and to throw an effective changeup. Though Dr. Lewis Yocum has given him a clean bill of health, teams considering Scheppers near the top of the draft still have some trepidation. He still should become a top-10 choice, a year later than expected.
5. Aaron Crow, Fort Worth Cats (American Association)
Crow, then at Missouri, was the top righthander in last year's draft, and the Nationals were thrilled to get him with the ninth overall pick. But they never found any common ground in negotiations with his agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks, and the signing deadline passed with Crow seeking $4 million and turning down $3.5 million. Now he hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Tigers teammate Max Scherzer, who parlayed a stay in Fort Worth into a $4.3 million big league contract with the Diamondbacks. Crow had the best fastball package in the 2008 draft, with velocity (92-96 mph), hard sink, command and the ability to maintain it into the late innings. He showed the same heater in his first two exhibition starts with the Cats, and flashed the plus slider that overmatched college hitters. He's still regaining the sharp command he had in 2008, when he threw 43 consecutive scoreless innings at Missouri. Crow used his downtime to get stronger and to work on his changeup. There's some effort to his delivery, and some teams wonder if his mechanics and size (generously listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds) will make him more of a closer than a frontline starter. In either case, he should go in the first 10 picks again and shouldn't require much time in the minors.
6. Jacob Turner, Westminster Christian Academy, St. Louis
Jacob Turner (Photo by Mike Janes)
Already considered a mid-first-round talent entering the season, Turner was generating serious momentum a month before the draft. He had edged ahead of Shelby Miller (Texas) and Zack Wheeler (Georgia) as the top high school righthander in the draft, and was gaining ground on Kyle Gibson as the best pitching prospect in Missouri.Whether his draft position will reflect that status remains to be seen, as he'd advised by the Scott Boras Corp. and reportedly will seek to match the record guarantee given to a high school pitcher: $7 million for Josh Beckett (Marlins, 1999) and Rick Porcello (Tigers, 2007). While Turner isn't quite at the same level Beckett and Porcello were when they came out of high school, he's quite talented. The 6-foot-5, 205 pounder has such an easy three-quarters delivery that it makes his 92-94 mph fastball (which tops out at 98) seem even faster. He has good aptitude for spinning a big-breaking curveball, and he has the makings of a good changeup. All three pitches were working when he struck out five straight hitters at the Aflac All-American Game last summer. The biggest quibble with Turner is that he sometimes doesn't command his curveball, but his delivery is repeatable and he does a good job of staying on top of the pitch, so he should gain more consistency with experience. He has benefited from the tutelage of former big leaguers Andy Benes, Mike Matheny and Todd Worrell, who have sons who have played at Westminster Christian. Said Worrell, the team's pitching coach: "He's got the whole package . . . As a pitcher, he's 6-5 with a perfect pitcher's body and a live arm." Turner has committed to North Carolina, just like last year's premium prep pitcher from Missouri, Tim Melville did before signing with the Royals for $1.25 million.
7. Shelby Miller, Brownwood (Texas) HS
No high school pitcher has a better fastball than Miller. At 94 mph, he tied for the highest velocity recorded at last summer's Area Code Games, and he has touched 96 this spring. He usually pitches at 92-93 mph, but his fastball has more than just velocity. It has tremendous life, it's deceptive because he has such an easy delivery and he does a good job of using his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame to throw it downhill. Miller spins a solid curve that will be a plus pitch when he commands it more consistently. He has made strides with his changeup as well. He has sound mechanics and arm action, and a blue-collar work ethic. He's a good athlete who also starred in football, making the all-state 3-A second team as a tight end and punter in the fall. Miller is Texas A&M's top recruit, but he's expected to turn pro after going in the upper half of the first round.
8. Zack Wheeler, East Paulding HS, Dallas, Ga.
Zack Wheeler (Photo by Mike Janes)
Wheeler emerged last summer as the top pitcher in Georgia's East Cobb prep program and didn't let up this spring. He has a chance to be the well-regarded program's best starting pitcher ever, and he could allow Georgia to provide the top high school pitcher in the draft in consecutive seasons, following Ethan Martin (15th overall, Dodgers). Wheeler figures to go higher in the draft than fellow Georgia prep pitcher Ethan Martin did last year (15th overall) based on a picture-perfect projection body. Lean with long levers, Wheeler generates excellent arm speed and can produce mid-90s heat with his fastball, sitting in the low 90s. He has the athleticism and solid mechanics to produce average big league command. Wheeler pitches off his fastball and puts hitters away with a power breaking ball, most accurately called a slurve. It has late bite and depth, giving him a second plus pitch. Wheeler doesn't throw much of a changeup at this point. He's considered signable, having committed early to Kennesaw State with a fallback option of Chipola (Fla.) JC. His older brother Adam was a 13th-round pick in 2001 who spent four seasons in the Yankees system.
9. Mike Leake, Arizona State
Mike Leake (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
Few pitchers were as consistently good this season as Arizona State righthander Mike Leake. That shouldn't come as a surprise—he's been carving up the Pac-10 for three years. A seventh-round draft pick by the Athletics out of Fallbrook (Calif.) High in 2006, Leake instead headed for Tempe and has pitched his way into first-round consideration. Listed at 6 feet, 180 pounds, what he lacks in pure physicality, he makes up for in athleticism and results. In addition to baseball, Leake played soccer, football and basketball in high school and could be a position player at Arizona State if he wasn't so valuable on the mound. Leake pounds the strike zone with a fastball that sits 88-92 mph. He can dial it up to 94, but prefers to work at lower speeds to get more movement. Throwing from a lower three-quarters arm slot, he gets a lot of armside run and sink on his fastball that results in a lot of groundballs. He also throws a changeup, slider and cutter that grade out as above-average offerings. Leake is a smart pitcher with a bulldog mentality on the mound.
10. Eric Arnett, Indiana
Indiana University produced just one first-round pick in the first 44 drafts, shortstop James DeNeff (No. 8 overall, Angels) in 1966. Forty-three years later, the Hoosiers should have their second—and it's not preseason All-America catcher Josh Phegley. After pitching mostly out of the bullpen and having only sporadic success in his first two seasons at Indiana, Arnett got stronger and tightened his slider. He flashed a 92 mph fastball as a freshman, and now he's sitting at 92-94 mph, touching 96 and maintaining his velocity into the late innings. His mid-80s slider gives him a second strikeout pitch. He also is doing a better job of using his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame to leverage the ball down in the strike zone. He's a workhorse who has held up well while averaging nearly eight innings per start, and he ranked second in NCAA Division I with 11 wins entering the final week of regular-season play. Arnett will need to improve his changeup to remain a starter in pro ball, and some scouts think he lands too hard on his front leg in his delivery. Others say his mechanics are fine, and enough teams like him that he should go in the second half of the first round.
11. Chad Jenkins, Kennesaw State
While Kyle Heckathorn entered the year as the top prospect in the A-Sun, Jenkins and Brothers weren't far behind. A mid-80s guy in high school, Jenkins had a soft body but his arm worked well, and he has improved significantly in college. He had a strong sophomore season, first with Kennesaw State (5-5, 3.96), then in the Great Lakes League. Jenkins has firmed up his still soft body, and his velocity has caught up with his ability to throw strikes. He now has two or three plus pitches at times with good command, giving him serious helium. Jenkins has a great feel for pitching and now sits at 90-93 mph with his hard sinker and reaches back for 96 mph with a four-seamer at times. His sinker has boring action in on righthanded hitters when it's going well. His slider gives him a second plus pitch. His changeup is average. Jenkins repeats his delivery, and scouts see his big 6-foot-4, 225-pound body as a durable asset, particularly if he keeps getting in better shape. He resembles Phillies righthander Joe Blanton, with better command, and should go in the first 20 picks.
12. Kyle Heckathorn, Kennesaw State
Kyle Heckathorn (Photo by David Schofield)
Heckathorn has been on scouts' radars since he started growing into his 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame. As a prep junior, he had an ankle injury that prompted many of the larger schools recruiting him to hesitate, while Kennesaw State kept after him. He reciprocated their loyalty and finally was having a breakout season as a junior, after several fits and starts. Heckathorn has raw stuff on par with anyone in the draft class, even Stephen Strasburg. He runs his fastball up to 99 mph as a starter, sitting in the 94-97 range into the eighth inning against Jacksonville in a May start. His slider can be similarly lethal, sometimes turning into a true cutter at 91-93 mph, other times getting decent depth in the 85-88 mph range. He doesn't throw much that's soft and actually throws too many strikes; he hasn't yet learned how to set up hitters to chase his slider or heater out of the zone when ahead in the count. Heckathorn's quick (two outing) departure from the Cape Cod League last summer raised some red flags for teams, as has his lack of consistent dominance in the Atlantic Sun. His command also is not what it should be. Most clubs consider Heckathorn, who has a short, quick arm action, a likely reliever as a pro, as a better (they hope) version of Kyle Farnsworth.
13. Garrett Gould, Maize (Kan.) HS
Gould just keeps getting better and was quickly pitching his way into the first round. He was the Kansas 6-A pitcher of the year in 2008, when he broke big leaguer Nate Robertson's Maize High record with 95 strikeouts in 57 innings. He won MVP honors at the World Wood Bat Association championship last October, beating Shelby Miller in the quarterfinals and allowing just one hit and one walk while fanning 18 in eight shutout innings. After adding strength in the offseason, Gould has taken his fastball from 88-91 mph in 2008 to 91-94 mph this spring—and it's not even his best pitch. He has one of the best curves among this draft's high schoolers, a power breaker he delivers from a high three-quarters arm slot. He also dabbles with a changeup. Some scouts worry a little about effort in his mechanics, while others like how he stays tall and gets good extension out front. Gould is a quality 6-foot-4, 200-pound athlete who starred as a quarterback in football and as a forward in basketball before deciding to focus on baseball as a senior. He plays the outfield when he's not pitching and has enough righthanded power to play both ways for Wichita State should he attend college. But he'll probably go too high in the draft for that to happen.
14. Sam Dyson, South Carolina
Sam Dyson (Photo by Tony Farlow)
Dyson was a 19th-round pick of the Nationals out of Jesuit High in Tampa in 2006, but he decided to attend South Carolina. He missed his freshman season after having labrum surgery but has regained his stuff and has been one of the Southeastern Conference's top starters the last two seasons. Dyson has an electric fastball more notable for its velocity rather than its movement. He generates easy heat, touching the upper 90s while sitting 93-95 mph. He has an athletic frame and quick arm. At times, Dyson has a second plus pitch with a hammer curveball, thrown with power and depth at 78-82 mph. It has lacked consistency, as has his changeup, which like his fastball is fairly straight. Dyson has solid control but lacks command, and hasn't quite figured out how to consistently put hitters away, leading to just 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings for his two healthy college seasons. Dyson's ability to maintain his velocity deep into games and chance for three pitches makes him a good candidate to start at the pro level, but his power arm and relative lack of pitchability could lead him to a bullpen role. Either way, he's one of the hardest throwers in the college ranks and won't last past the second round.
15. Brody Colvin, St. Thomas More HS, Lafayette, La.
Colvin lacks polish and consistency, but he sure looks like a first-rounder when he's on top of his game. He has an extremely quick arm that delivers fastballs up to 94 mph, and there's more velocity remaining in his sculpted 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame. Scouts project that he'll sit at 92-94 mph and touch 96 once he fills out. Colvin's fastball dances and sinks so much that he has trouble controlling it. His No. 2 pitch is a hard curveball with 11-to-5 break that can be unhittable at times. He's still developing feel for his changeup. Colvin stabs in the back of his delivery and throws across his body, so he'll need to clean up his mechanics, which should help with his command. His athleticism—he has average speed and power potential as an outfielder—bodes well for his ability to make the necessary adjustments. Focusing all his efforts on pitching will help too. Colvin came down with blisters at the end of the season, and he topped out at 92 mph in a 11-3 rout at the hands of Byrd High in a Louisiana 5-A first-round playoff game. He has committed to Louisiana State.
16. Victor Black, Dallas Baptist
Black may have cemented his status as Texas' top college prospect when he outpitched two of his main challengers, Texas A&M's Brook Raley and Alex Wilson, in front of a crowd of scouts in late April. Black allowed just one hit in the first six innings before tiring, topping out at 96 mph and sitting at 92-94. His fastball is pretty straight because he throws from a high three-quarters slot, and his control sometimes deserts him, but he has pitched in the mid-90s throughout the season. Black has improved his mechanics and command significantly from a year ago, when he struggled mightily at Dallas Baptist (1-6, 4.97) and in the Cape Cod League (0-4, 7.01). He had a good curveball as a freshman but lost it in 2008, and he now throws a slider. It has good tilt when he stays balanced over the rubber, and it was sharp against the Aggies.His changeup has been more effective this year, but it will require work in pro ball. His 6-foot-4, 204-pound frame is built for durability. The velocity and progress Black has shown this season could carry him into the end of the first round.
17. Drew Storen, Stanford
Storen was considered one of the more polished high school pitchers available in the 2007 draft, which makes sense since he was 19. He instantly settled in as the closer and helped the Cardinal reach the 2008 College World Series. The eligible sophomore has been one of the few bright spots for a disappointing '09 Stanford club. Storen has been one of the team's few consistent performers, thanks to his ability to throw quality strikes. He pumps his fastball in the 92-94 mph range and regularly touches 95-96. His fastball has decent life, and his biggest difficulty has been locating it. When he misses, he misses up, leaving him a bit homer prone. While he throws a decent changeup, it's rare, and his power slider is his best secondary pitch, giving him a second plus offering. Storen challenges hitters and isn't afraid to pitch inside. He has a good chance to be the first college closer drafted, potentially in the supplemental or second round. While many eligible sophomores at academic institutions such as Stanford can be tough signs, Storen, whose father Mark Patrick is a radio talk show host who worked on XM Radio's Home Plate baseball channel, will be 22 in August and has little left to prove in college.
18. Matt Hobgood, Norco (Calif.) HS
Hobgood first gained attention in Southern California when he outdueled Gerrit Cole (who went on to be a first-round pick) in a high school playoff game in 2008. That made him the local player of the year as a junior, beating out first-round picks such as Cole, Kyle Skipworth and Aaron Hicks. A 6-foot-4 245-pounder, Hobgood resembles a young Goose Gossage. He has tremendous power at the plate, but he realizes his future is on the mound. His raw stuff is electric, with a fastball ranging from 90-94 mph and peaking at 95. He maintains his velocity deep into games, and in a March start he was firing four-seamers at 92-94 mph in the fifth inning. His curveball shows sharp, late break, and he also has shown a changeup and slider. All three show promise, but his command is spotty and he'll need to develop and sharpen each one. Hobgood's mechanics are cleaner than most high school pitching prospects, though he still needs refinement. If his terrific stuff combined with a more projectable build, he would probably be drafted even higher, but as it stands he should go no later than the second or third round.
19. Madison Younginer, Mauldin (S.C.) HS
While Younginer has thrown well this spring, he's been one of the harder players in the country to scout because his high school team has used him as a reliever. That approach has frustrated scouts and might cost Younginer some money. Recruited to Clemson as both a hitter and pitcher, he has one of the best raw arms in the draft. He's athletic and throws two plus pitches: a fastball that has sat in the mid-90s in short relief bursts, with reports of him touching 97, and a power breaking ball in the upper 80s. Both pitches have late life, with the fastball featuring armside run. Younginer has trouble repeating his delivery and some scouts question his arm action, which can get long. He has flashed the makings of a changeup in past showcase action but hasn't used it much this spring. Last year's top South Carolina prep pitcher, Jordan Lyles, had less fastball and much less breaking ball yet was a supplemental first-rounder after a good workout. Younginer could improve his stock considerably in the same manner after being so hard to scout this spring and could go anywhere from the first to the third round.
20. Zach Von Rosenberg, Zachary (La.) HS
Von Rosenberg doesn't light up radar guns like fellow Louisiana high school righthander Brody Colvin, but he's a much more polished pitcher with an exceptional track record of winning at the prep level. Von Rosenberg won state championships in each of his first three seasons, a 5-A title at Barbe in 2006 and 4-A titles at Zachary the last two years. He picked up victories in Zachary's first two playoff games this spring, boosting his career high school record to 40-6. He has advanced command of three solid pitches: an 88-91 mph fastball with good life, a curveball with nice depth and a changeup with deception. He has a 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame and a clean delivery, so his velocity should increase, especially when he stops playing shortstop when he's not pitching. He did work in the low 90s more regularly late in the spring, and some area scouts prefer him to Colvin. Both players have scholarships from Louisiana State that they'll likely turn down when they go in the first two rounds of the draft.
21. Keyvius Sampson, Forest HS, Ocala, Fla.
Florida State's top recruit, Sampson would bring the Seminoles a dynamic arm the program has lacked in recent years, if he gets to school. That's not likely, as his lithe, athletic frame and power arm have attracted scouts' interest for the last two years. Sampson has overcome off-field problems (see story, Page 22) including the death of his mother, to become one of the top arms in the state of Florida, which will be the top producer of talent in this year's draft after California. He reminds some scouts of Edwin Jackson as an African-American pitcher with athleticism and a quick arm that produces above-average velocity. He's touched 95-96 as the season has gone on, showing stronger stuff to go with a power breaking ball. He's shown feel for a changeup as well and has good present control and projects to have average future command thanks to his athleticism. He tends to vary his arm slot more than he should depending on the pitch and needs to become more consistent to make projections of average command come through. Clubs that believe in the arm and athleticism won't let him get through the first two rounds.
22. Alex Wilson, Texas A&M
Wilson projected as a possible first-round pick before he blew out his elbow in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2007, shortly before he transferred from Winthrop to Texas A&M. He redshirted with the Aggies last spring, though he did reach 94 mph in bullpen workouts that attracted a number of scouts. The Cubs took a flier on him in the 10th round last June and followed him when he returned to the Cape in the summer. Chicago reportedly offered him $600,000 to sign but he was looking for $1.5 million. Wilson looked to be in line for that kind of bonus when he opened this season with a 91-95 mph fastball and a true slider, but his stuff slacked off later in the spring and didn't pick up when Texas A&M moved him to the bullpen. By May, his fastball had flattened out and was down to 88-91 mph and his breaking ball had become slurvy. Wilson is mainly a two-pitch pitcher, so he projects as a reliever in pro ball. His control has been sharp (105-18 K-BB ratio in 75 innings) for a pitcher in his first season back after elbow reconstruction. He figures to be a second-round pick at this point, though he's believed to be looking for a seven-figure bonus as a 22-year-old junior.
23. Jason Stoffel, Arizona
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Stoffel looked like a no-doubt first-rounder entering the season, and while he still flashes a fastball that sits 93-95 mph and a slider that can be unhittable, he has been inconsistent. His fastball and slider have straightened out and lost a few ticks at times this season, and his numbers this season aren't those of a dominant reliever. But Stoffel became Arizona's career saves leader this season with 26 and counting, passing Mark Melancon. Scouts who have seen him good put Stoffel in the same class as Arizona's first-round pitchers from last season, Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth. He's a fierce competitor but falls into the trap of many relievers in pitching to the situation. He pitches better in close games, and can lose focus when he comes in with a cushion. Some question Stoffel's decision to pass on pitching in the Cape Cod League or for Team USA the past two summers.
24. Ryan Buch, Monmouth
Buch broke out in 2007, when he went 9-2, 2.44 as a freshman at Monmouth and ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Atlantic Collegiate League that summer. He's always had a prototype pitcher's frame and an excellent curveball, but his stock soared in April along with his velocity. Buch has reached the low 90s with his fastball since he was a freshman, and he has still pitched in that range for most of this spring. More recently he had run his fastball up to 95, sitting at 92-93. The velocity on his sharp, downer curveball has also spiked, reaching 84-85 mph. Even when he throws it slower—and some scouts report seeing a 74-77 breaker, while others have seen it at 81-82— it's still a true above-average offering. But when he throws it harder, it can rate as a 70 or better pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. Buch is refining his fastball command, and he does not have a lot of feel for his changeup. But scouts can dream on him, and he seems likely to be drafted in the first two rounds in June.
25. A.J. Morris, Kansas State
Morris has been one of the biggest surprises of the college season, ranking second in NCAA Division I in wins (11) and third in ERA (1.67) entering the final week of the regular season. He handed Arizona State's Mike Leake his only loss of the season, and would have dealt Missouri's Kyle Gibson a defeat if Kansas State's bullpen hadn't blown a lead for him. It has been a far cry from his 4-4, 6.04 performance as a sophomore. Morris has dominated with just two pitches, a 90-91 mph fastball that tops out at 94 and a solid slider. He locates both with precision, usually on the corners and at the knees, and his command allows them both to play above their average grades. Morris is throwing from a lower arm slot this year, giving him more lateral life on his pitches, and he has scrapped an ineffective curveball. Hitters have trouble picking up his pitches. He also has added 15 pounds and now carries 200 on his 6-foot-2 frame. Morris hasn't needed a changeup and some area scouts say they haven't even see him throw one while warming up between innings. His emergence began in the West Coast League last summer, and some clubs tried to sign him as a free agent after he went undrafted last June as a sophomore-eligible. Some scouts worry about his size, arm action and lack of a third pitch, but a team that believes heavily in performance could take him early in the second round.
26. Joe Kelly, UC Riverside
Plagued by shoulder trouble early in his college career, Kelly has emerged as one of the nation's top college closers in 2009. At 6-foot-1, he doesn't fit the classic image of the physically intimidating closer, but his stuff is plenty big. In fall ball Kelly flashed a fastball that ranged from 93-96 mph, with wicked natural sink, and he maintained his stuff in the spring and now regularly clocks in at 94-97. Strictly a short relief man, Kelly is an aggressive hurler who wants the ball in pressure situations. He had nine saves this spring for the Highlanders, with 18 strikeouts against five walks in 25 innings, though his 5.33 ERA wasn't impressive. In his delivery, Kelly is reminiscent of Brett Hunter, chosen last year out of Pepperdine, with a high-effort delivery from a low three-quarters arm slot, and he falls off to his left after delivery. Most pitchers begin their pro careers as starters and are then converted to relievers, but Kelly figures to be a closer from the opening bell. His stuff may help him rush through the minors as quickly as any pitcher in the draft class.
27. Brad Boxberger, Southern California
Boxberger is the son of Rod Boxberger, a righthander who led Southern California to a College World Series title in 1978, when he was also a first-round pick of the Astros. Both father and son attended Foothill High in Orange County, where Brad succeeded Phil Hughes as the staff ace and became a 20th-round pick of the Royals in 2006. He decided to follow in his father's footsteps to Southern Cal instead, and he has essentially been the Friday starter since he was a freshman. At an even 6 feet with a strong and mature frame. Boxberger has three pitches with plus potential. First is a 91-93 mph fastball that peaks at 94. He can add and subtract velocity from his 79-80 mph curveball, and his circle changeup is a bit inconsistent but has excellent deception and late drop when it's on. During his windup, he has a distinctive habit of turning his back to the plate. Boxberger offers little projection and ideally would be a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues. He has a tendency to hit the wall, and late in starts his velocity will drop, his command will disappear and the wheels will come off. Brad doesn't figure to be the 11th overall pick as his father was, but he could reach the back of the first round in a best case.
28. David Hale, Princeton
A premium athlete with a prototype pitcher's frame (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) and a lightning-quick arm, Hale has split time between pitching and playing center field in three years at Princeton, and many scouts believe he could take off once he starts concentrating on pitching full-time in pro ball. The biggest knock on Hale is that he has never dominated in the Ivy League—he went 2-3, 4.43 with 47 strikeouts and 24 walks in 41 innings this spring—or in the Cape Cod League, but his power stuff is undeniable. Hale helped himself considerably in his final outing of the season in front of a bevy of scouts, holding his 92-93 mph fastball velocity into the sixth inning and regularly reaching 95-96. He has topped out at 97 this year and pitches with minimal effort, but some scouts say his fastball is flat and easy to pick up. At times he'll flash a plus slider in the 84-86 range, reaching 88, but other times the pitch is sweeping and he struggled to command it. Hale still needs to learn to command his stuff in the strike zone, and questions about his ability to do so lead many scouts to project him as a reliever, though he'll show some feel for a changeup every once in a while.
29. Kendal Volz, Baylor
Expectations were high for Volz after he showed a 92-95 mph fastball and a low-80s slider with late break as Team USA's closer last summer. He didn't allow an earned run in 14 innings, saved the gold-medal game at the FISU World Championships in the Czech Republic and looked like a possible top-10 pick for 2009. But his stuff had gone backwards so much by May that he might not even go in the first two rounds. His fastball parked in the high 80s and flattened out, and his slider no longer was a weapon. His delivery looks different, as it now contains some ugly recoil, and his command has gotten worse as well. Volz has flashed an effective changeup and has a 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame built for a workhorse role, so he has the ingredients to be a starter at the next level—provided his previous fastball, slider and command return. If not, he looked well suited for a late-inning role last summer. But outside of his time with Team USA, he has been hit harder than someone with his stuff should.
30. Dylan Floro, Buhach Colony HS, Atwater, Calif.
Many clubs had Floro pegged as a supplemental first-rounder when the spring began, and while his velocity has dipped this spring he still isn't likely to last much past the second round. Slightly undersized at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Floro has a long track record with local and national scouts. He still sits at 90-92 mph with his fastball, and he adds a changeup to his mix, but his best offering may be his tight, high 70s slider, which has the makings of a plus pitch. Floro is committed to Cal State Fullerton and might be well served by three years of college experience, but he may find it hard to pass on signing if he goes in the second round.
31. Billy Bullock, Florida
A 20th-round pick out of high school, Bullock has been a similar pitcher in college to what he was as a prep. For most of his career, he didn't maximize the leverage his 6-foot-6 frame provides, and his velocity was inconsistent, whether he was starting (as he did once this spring, at Arkansas) or in a relief role. However, Bullock has taken off in a relief role and become the top draft-eligible bullpen arm in the Southeastern Conference. Bullock was at his best when Florida swept Georgia in Athens, hitting 97 mph several times with his fastball. He also held his velocity in pitching in all three games of that series. While scouts have considered him a tease due to his inconsistency, Bullock has pitched more consistently as a closer. His breaking ball has evolved from a curveball to a slider, and at times it reaches 83 mph with tilt. Bullock still tends to leave his fastball up at times, leading to five home runs allowed in 40 innings, and could pitch downhill more frequently with refinements to his delivery. Despite lashing ability for a changeup in the past, Bullock seems to have taken to the closer role, emphasizing power over touch.
32. Ben Tootle, Jacksonville State
Tootle fits in with other small-college high draft picks such as Kyle Heckathorn, Rex Brothers and Chad Jenkins who gained more experience by going to smaller schools and earning rotation time as freshmen. Tootle threw 174 innings his first two seasons at Jacksonville State and shined last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he ranked as the league's No. 4 prospect. He showed a 94-98 mph fastball last summer and similar velocity at times this spring. He's a hard worker and long-toss fan with a quick arm who holds his above-average velocity deep into games when he's physically right. Tootle missed about a month with a stomach virus that caused him to lose more than 10 pounds. In his first two outings after his time off, his velocity was down, but he was brilliant for four innings against Tennessee Tech, sitting 92-96 mph before he tired in the fifth inning.Tootle's secondary stuff remains in question as does the life on his fastball. He throws a hard slider that grades out as average and a changeup as well, though it's below-average. Most scouts consider Tootle a better bet to relieve despite his ability to throw hard for seven innings, as he showed when the last pitch of his seven-inning complete game against Austin Peay was 98 mph. His draft status might hinge on how he finishes and how well teams saw him last summer. He won't go in the first round as he might have right after last summer's performance, but he shouldn't be far behind his small-school brethren.
33. Michael Heller, Cardinal Mooney HS, Sarasota, Fla.
Another part of Florida's outstanding recruiting class, Heller is one of the Gators signees who has improved their draft stock the most this spring. That's even though he was excellent last summer, particularly in the Perfect Game national showcase. He's the son of Florida alumni and has a brother at the school; he's also a two-way player with metal-bat power, so it might not be easy to get him to give up his Florida fandom. He has shown outstanding arm strength this spring, flashing 97 mph heat while sitting more in the 88-93 mph range. He's growing into his frame, getting up to 6-foot-3, 190 pounds and still has lots of projection. Heller has a high three-quarters slot that he needs to maintain to keep his fastball down in the zone. While his slider is just average and is inconsistent, some scouts project it to be a second plus pitch in the future. His changeup, slider and command all have been inconsistent, which basically makes him the typical high school pitcher. Heller has thrown well in front of crosscheckers and national scouts, making him a possibility for teams that miss out on the elite prep righthander trio of Jacob Turner, Shelby Miler and Zach Wheeler.
34. Andrew Doyle, Oklahoma
Doyle has solid stuff and a craftsman's approach to pitching. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has the arm strength to dial a four-seam fastball up to 93-94 mph when needed, but he prefers to throw 89-91 mph two-seamers on the corners, allowing their sink to create groundouts. His slider isn't a swing-and-miss pitch but it is an out pitch, generating off-balance swings and more groundouts. His changeup gives him a third pitch that induces weak contact. Doyle has an easy delivery and is always around the plate. He doesn't have the sexiest arsenal, especially compared to flamethrowing but erratic teammate Garrett Richards, but Doyle does have 15 wins in two seasons in Oklahoma's rotation. He projects as a possible third-round pick and potential No. 3 starter in the big leagues.
35. Bryan Berglund, Royal HS, Simi Valley, Calif.
Berglund was little known until a local all-star game last December, when he enjoyed a breakout performance and rocketed up draft boards. Berglund is a Swedish citizen who has picked up the American national pastime. His fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range, and his secondary pitches well developed for a prep pitcher. His slider has the makings of a plus pitch, but his best current offering is his changeup, which shows both deception and late drop. Berglund's velocity takes tails off as he progresses through a game, slipping down to 86-87 mph by the third or fourth inning, and he leans too much on his fastball, two problems that should be solved by simple maturity and development. Berglund's projectable 6-foot-4 build, with his three legitimate pitches, make him attractive enough that he probably won't follow through on his commitment to Loyola Marymount.
36. David Renfroe, South Panola HS, Batesville, Miss.
37. Jake Barrett, Desert Ridge HS, Mesa, Ariz.
38. Scott Griggs, San Ramon Valley HS, Danville, Calif.
39. Robert Stock, Southern California
40. Brooks Hall, Hanna HS, Anderson, S.C.
41. Ryan Berry, Rice
42. Joe Gardner, UC Santa Barbara
43. Dane Williams, Archbishop McCarthy HS, Southwest Ranches, Fla.
44. Jerry Sullivan, Oral Roberts
45. John Stilson, Texarkana (Texas) JC
46. Mark Appel, Monte Vista HS, Danville, Calif.
47. Jake Cowan, San Jacinto (Texas) JC
48. Garrett Richards, Oklahoma
49. Tyler Blandford, Oklahoma State
50. Renny Parthemore, Cedar Cliff (Pa.) HS
51. Scott Bittle, Mississippi
52. Tanner Bushue, South Central HS, Farina, Ill.
53. Matt Graham, Oak Ridge HS, Conroe, Texas
54. Eric Smith, Rhode Island
55. Kyle Bellamy, Miami
56. Kyle Smith, Kent State
57. Brad Stillings, Kent State
58. Mike Nesseth, Nebraska
59. Cole White, New Mexico
60. Jorge Reyes, Oregon State
61. Dean Weaver, Georgia
62. Brian Pearl, Washington
63. Justin Collop, Toledo
64. Matt Thomson, San Diego
65. Erik Stavert, rhp, Oregon
66. Graham Stoneburner, rhp, Clemson
67. Danny Reynolds, Durango HS, Las Vegas
68. Tanner Poppe, Girard (Kan.) HS
69. Sean Black, Seton Hall
70. Austin Adams, Faulkner (Ala.)
71. Kyle Hansen, St. Dominic HS, Oyster Bay, N.Y.
72. Brett Wallach, Orange Coast (Calif.) JC
73. Devin Fuller, Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) CC
74. Rob Gilliam, UNC Greensboro
75. Randy Henry, South Mountain (Ariz.) CC
76. Merrill Kelly, Yavapai (Ariz.) JC
77. Miles Mikolas, Nova Southeastern
78. Braden Tullis, Skagit Valley (Wash.) CC
79. Kendall Korball, Blinn (Texas) JC
80. Jeremy Toole, Brigham Young