On Tuesday, I posted a review of the Braves’ early round draft history and their current organizational needs. Today I would like to follow up with a specific look at the quality Left-handed starting pitchers that could be available around those 32nd and
67th 66th* picks that Atlanta has in the 1st two rounds. Here we go…
Players Out of Reach
I’ll first mention these guys simply because they are the class of the draft board. If any of these happen to slip to pick #32, then Atlanta should grab them. However, that’s not very likely as they are well-known and have been well-scouted. All rankings indicated are those cited by Baseball America via their Top 100 draft prospects list from just one week ago. Again: big props for their efforts.
- Carlos Rodon (3), NC State. (pictured above) Baseball America likes Rodon to go #1 overall. His NC State manager is taking some heat for working him so hard in April: 3 starts averaging 126 pitches each. That probably won’t diminish the luster on his star, though, and he’ll definitely go in the top 5, if not #1 to the Astros.
Kyle Freeland (5), Evansville. (pictured at right) Good game report from Baseball America on a “dominant” April start at this link. low-to-mid 90′s fastball with ‘plus’ secondary pitches. Admittedly, I cringe when I see that photo of him: he’s got the ‘whip’ action thing going for him, which immediately makes me think “Tommy John”, but that seems to be the era we live in. Big frame at 6’4″, 190-195.
- Brandon Finnegan (9), TCU. Brandon is 5’11″, 190, so he stands as a distinctly different pitcher from the others here. His delivery appears to be consistent, repeatable, and he generates low-to-mid 90′s heat (as least) from that – seemingly without a ton of extra efforts, which is a bit surprising, given his stature. Command needs improvement, according to that report, but seems to project to the middle of a rotation.
- Sean Newcomb (19), Hartford. I talked about Sean on Tuesday. Would love to have this power arm, but I’m seeing suggestions that he could go even higher than his ranking indicates. Ergo, he is in this “out of reach” group.
So with that, here are the remaining LHP’s in the Baseball America Top 100:
- Foster Griffin (28), HS (Orlando, FL). 6’5″, maybe 200 lbs. Ole Miss commit. Oh, and he also hits .400+. Averaging about 1.6K per inning over the past 2 years. 90-91 mph fastball. 5:1 K/BB ratio. Comes from school with a solid development history. Not my favorite in this list (can’t really put my finger on any specific reasons for that).
- A.J. Reed (33), Kentucky. Here’s an enimga guy. 6’4″/240 pitcher and first baseman. Leads the NCAA with 23 homers. Was hitter of the week nationally in early April. His slash line is .358/.494/.786 for a ridiculous 1.280 OPS. A ton of other awards. So… can he pitch?? Well, yeah: 103 innings, 15 starts, 2.10 ERA in the SEC with 68K/29BB and an 11-2 record. 92 mph fastball… of course. I just don’t know how you tell him “pick one: hitting or pitching”… the kid is Babe Ruth. Could still be on the board at 32… but not at all sure what the Braves would do with him (Fredi would probably bat him 4th while he’s pitching… but you could hardly blame him for that ).
- Kodi Medeiros (35), HS (Waiakea, HI). Of all the kids on this list, this one is the longest shot. I see no way that Atlanta would reach as far as Hawaii to land a pitcher from High School. Heck the culture shock alone would probably ruin him. So even if he ends up being Randy Johnson… this isn’t gonna happen.
- Matt Imhof (42), Cal Poly University. Wrote about this 6’5″ kid in the prior draft report, but I’ll add that he’s striking out a ton of college hitters by being ‘sneaky-fast’: one report suggests he’s got a 90mph fastball that looks like 94.
- Cody Reed (44), HS (Ardmore, AL). Discussed Tuesday: I like this kid not just because he’s local to me but because of his size (6’3″, 220) and his command. Yes, the best high school pitchers will always dominant from time to time, but few also get no-hitters in the playoffs while averaging 2+ strikeouts per inning. The Braves will have to decide if he needs to be a 1st rounder to sign, or if they can wait for pick #67… assuming he’s still on the board then.
- Justus Sheffield (49), HS (Tullahoma, TN). 6’2″, 195 with mid-90′s fastball. Vanderbilt commit (holy smokes – if both he AND Cody Reed end up there…what a staff that will be!). I have mixed reports of whether Justus is related (nephew?) to Garry Sheffield, but this kid has the tools – fastball, slider, and changeup – along with the resume: lots of strikeouts and at least one no-hitter as well. Big leg kick on the delivery. I’m going to proffer a guess (from looking at his tweets) that he might be signable.
- Carson Sands (50), HS (Tallahassee, FL). 6’4″, 205. Made the national 18-and-Under team as a Junior. 92 mph fastball with solid secondary pitches (some inconsistency on the breaking pitch is reported). 11-1 this year; threw well on the national team. I’ve found no college commitment for him to this point. Hey if he doesn’t work out, there’s always brother Cole (though he’s a RHP).
- Alex Verdugo (52), HS (Tucson, AZ). 6’1″, 200 lbs. The big question here is whether he sticks on the mound or in the outfield. Low-to-mid 90′s fastball with a “good” breaking ball, but also an “outstanding” bat with some power. Will be heading for Arizona State if the draft isn’t to his liking. I think I’d probably pass.
- Mac Marshall (53), HS (Lilburn, GA). The ultimate Home Town guy on this list, since he’s literally right outside Atlanta. K’s 1.5 per inning. 10-1 since 2012-13 season, though walks a fairly high number. The numbers I see don’t scream “domination” to me from this 6’2″ 185 lefty. Can bring it in the 93-94 mph range.
- Andrew Suarez (73), U. Miami. 6’2″ 205 Junior from Miami. Recently beat U Maine with a 5 inning, 4 hit, 10 K, no walk performance. Leading the team with a 2.43 ERA, 45 K in 70 innings/10 starts. Sounds solid.
- Austin Gomber (80), Fla Atlantic. 6’5″, 165, though that sounds light given the photo I’m seeing (maybe 185?). 90 mph fastball – apparently with some extra juice as needed. Local newspaper called him the best on the FAU team for 2013, though apparently did not make all-conference this year (a 3-6 record probably contributed to that). 3.26 ERA in 77 innings. 4 homers allowed, 72 K, 15 walks… definitely their best starter.
- Aaron Brown (87), Pepperdine. A 6’2″ 200 lbs. Junior, he’s already been drafted twice in late rounds. Has a 90+ fastball, but there’s some question about whether he’s a pitcher or an outfielder. Played center field this year in addition to pitching. Hit .361/.385/541 with 2 homers. Threw to a 2.93 ERA with 30Ks in 28 innings as well as an occasional starter.
Jacob Lindgren (89), Miss State. Info I’m seeing suggests a fastball around 88-90 as a starter, but 91-95 as a reliever for this 6’0″ 185 pitcher. 65K/18BB in 56 innings in 2013. Dominated in high school; won state title in Mississippi/2010 (Junior year). Also played football for 4 years. In 2014, had ERA of 0.96 with 3 saves and 87K in 47 innings (used exclusively as a reliever). Doubt that Atlanta would draft him for that purpose.
- Jace Fry (91), Oregon State. National collegiate pitcher of the week 2 weeks ago after a 1-hit complete game shutout of Cal. He’s now 11-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 108 innings… and been even better in conference, though his non-conference work includes a no-hitter over Northern Illinois. He’s also on the short list for national pitcher of the year. I hear they play pretty decent ball out there in the Pac-12 as well. At 6’0″ 175, he’s not a ‘power arm’ guy (89-90 fastball), but he’s clearly getting college hitters out, so he’s certainly worth a long look. 91st sounds like a low rank, though these numbers are set by projections.
- David Peterson (95), HS (Aurora, CO). Is pledged to Oregon. Honestly trying to figure out the high ranking on this kid: high school numbers show an ERA in the low-mid 3′s early on, though better (1.62) this year. Guessing it’s probably mostly based on his size (6’6″) and his team’s success – along with some advice from Walt Weiss along the way. Command was improving through high school.
- Eric Skoglund (100), Central Fla. AAC pitcher of the year; UCF finished on Louisville’s heels in the AAC. He’s 6’7″/200 and threw to a 2.04 ERA, 92K/14BB and 9-2 record in 106 innings…. so far. He’s likely to pitch again in one of the AAC conference tournament’s final games over the next couple of days. He would be worth a look as well… possibly for Round 3.
My premise here is that the Braves need lefty pitchers, and probably a couple of them near the top of this draft. It would make sense to pick a solid – signable – high schooler to go along with a college kid who could reach the majors within 2-3 years. This is a draft that looks deep with left-handed arms. But frankly, with the rate of Tommy John surgeries, it makes good sense to stock quality arms because of the sheer casualty numbers involved.
* – The Braves have picks 32 and 66 in the first two rounds (that latter pick moved up a notch as Boston’s signing of Stephen Drew eliminates a chance for a compensation pick for them. The Braves’ 3rd round pick goes to slot 102; 4th round is 133. Add 30 for all rounds thereafter.
My Own Preferences…
…from a non-scout point of view looking in from the outside…
- Round 1 (32) – If Sean Newcomb is still somehow on the board, take him. Failing that, then Cody Reed, Justus Sheffield or Carson Sands (probably in that order). Matt Imhof would be a good sleeper pick here as well.
- Round 2 (66) – Best power bat outfielder you can find (doubt that either A.J. Reed or Casey Gillaspie would still be there), but take Imhof if he’s still available.
- Round 3 (102) - Jace Fry or Eric Skoglund (in that order)