Most of us at Baseball America are focused on the draft, which is just a week away, but not Aaron Fitt. No one covers college baseball like Aaron, and he proved it this weekend by nailing all 16 of the NCAA regional hosts and 63 of the 64 playoff teams. He'll be generating lots more college news from now through the College World Series, so be sure to check it out via the college area of our website, our College Blog and Aaron's Twitter feed.
Of course, we'll be working just as hard on the draft, which will consume most of my waking hours for at least the next week. I tackle three draft-related questions below, and next week Ask BA will be delayed a day or two. On Monday, I'll be working the draft phones during the day and contributing to MLB Network's televised draft coverage during the evening. Once the first day of the draft is complete, be sure to bombard Ask BA with a ton of draft questions. For shorter and more immediate responses, hit my Twitter feed.
It has been three weeks since the last Harper-related question in Ask BA, his longest absence from this column in three months. So let's check in again with the best power-hitting prospect in the history of the draft, whose club is one of three remaining undefeated teams at the Junior College World Series.
Barring something unforeseen, Harper will be the No. 1 overall pick. He's should eclipse Mark Teixeira's record for the largest guarantee ever given a drafted position player ($9.5 million), and the deal won't get finalized until minutes before the midnight deadline on Aug. 16.
At that point, it will have been more than two months since Harper played in a game, so I don't see him joining a minor league team. He's also four years younger than Strasburg was in 2009, not to mention far less equipped to handle the AFL, so I don't see that as a destination either. Harper's first real game will come in 2011, most likely with low Class A Hagerstown.
I suspect that the Nationals ultimately will decide that they'd rather get Harper's bat to the majors as soon as possible and thus move him to an outfield corner, as opposed to trying to develop him as a catcher. Even if Washington does that, we have to remember that Harper will be only 17 years old when he signs.
The earliest ETA that seems at all realistic is September 2012, assuming that he signs a big league contract. Even if he makes it up by mid-2013, he'll be only 20.
You left out another college lefty, David Price, the top pick in the 2007 draft. We'll add him to the discussion as well.
Pomeranz is a 6-foot-5, 231-pounder with a 90-94 mph fastball, hard 12-to-6 curveball and solid changeup. His biggest weakness is an intermittent lack of command and control, though he has a long track record of dominance in college and with Team USA. He projects as a good No. 2 starter.
Of the recent college lefthanders, Pomeranz most closely resembles Miller. Miller threw a little harder and from a lower arm angle, but he also had a breaking ball that was an out pitch and sometimes-shaky command. Price's build was the best match for Pomeranz, but he had better control and better secondary pitches, and he profiled as a true No. 1 starter. Matusz was the least like Pomeranz, less overpowering but more polished with a superior changeup and command.
Ranking them at the same stage of their career, I'd put them in this order: Price, Miller, Matusz, Pomeranz. Price and Miller were the consensus top prospects in their drafts, and I'd give Matusz a slight edge because of the depth of his repertoire and his ability to use it.
We rate Cunningham as the 87th-best player in the draft, which would make him an early third-rounder. But he was so good in the Cape Cod League, where scouts voted him the best prospect, and it's such a thin year for college position prospects, that he'll go at least a round earlier than that. It's possible there might be a club that likes him at the end of the first round, but that's a stretch after he hit .352/.464/.590 with 21 steals this spring.
Even during his big summer on the Cape, where he led the Cape in hitting (.378, better than he ever has hit with metal bats at Jacksonville State) and on-base percentage (.458), Cunningham created some split opinion. Everyone agreed that the 6-foot-1, 205-pound switch-hitter was gifted at squaring up balls from both sides of the plate and getting on base. Scouts who liked him projected him as a center fielder with gap power and good speed, while others said he lacked a second standout tool and profiled more as a tweener than as a big league regular.
Cunningham has played mostly left field at Jacksonville State but doesn't have the power to profile as an everyday player at that position. Whoever drafts him will give him every chance to make it in center field, and if that doesn't work out, he has the quickness and enough arm strength to try second base.