Scott wrote the first part of out 2013 draft preview yesterday by identifying some high floor/low upside pitchers around the Rays' range of draft picks. Today, I'll look at some of the higher upside pitchers that the Rays could draft with their first couple of picks.
"High upside" can be difficult to determine. How can you call a high school pitcher who is six years away from the majors a potential impact starter? How about a prep pitcher who throws around 90 mph range currently? The answer is that it is difficult, but there are several signs to look for. Generally speaking, a high upside prospect is one that displays (or has the potential to display) plus tools, or most often in a pitcher's scenario, plus stuff (pitches). The main component to look for is a fastball. Most of these guys either already have a good fastball, or they have the body type or quick arm that indicates that they could have a good fastball in the future. A feel for a breaking ball is also important, while the change up is of lesser importance. It is a held belief that a change up is a pitch that can be learned. As I already mentioned when discussing the fastball, body type helps determine a pitcher's potential. A tall pitcher with a loose arm excites scouts. A powerful build is more important for pitchers further along in the physical development curve. If the player can combine a projectable frame with the potential for plus stuff, then they are deemed "high upside" prospects. There is a lot of subjectivity involved, but in this post, I will use the opinions of online sources such as Baseball America, ESPN, minorleagueball.com, and Bullpen Banter.
Out of all the pitchers in the 2013 draft, only four should assuredly be gone by the time the Rays pick: Mark Appel (RHP, Stanford), Jonathan Gray (RHP, Oklahoma), Kohl Stewart (RHP, St. Pius X HS), and Braden Shipley (RHP, Nevada).
After that, I believe every pitcher has a chance of slipping to the Rays. The bonus of possessing two first round picks, as is the case with the Rays, is the ability to nab a player who has slipped in the draft. In the Rays case, they could select someone with the talent of a top 10-20 prospect in the draft, but who fell to pick #21 for a variety of reasons. Since the Rays have a bonus pool just exceeding six million dollars, they could allocate their resources to signing the high profile player while budgeting the rest of the bonus pool by signing less expensive players in the other slots. This could make someone such as Trey Ball affordable to the Rays.
Here are some of the high upside type pitchers (from both college and high school) that the Rays may take with their first few picks.
Trey Ball, Indiana H.S. (LHP, 6'6, 180 lbs.)
Best Attribute: A left handed pitcher with a fastball that sits in the mid to low 90's with plenty of projection is the makings of a tantalizing prospect.
Analysis: Prior to the season, there were serious questions about whether Ball would be drafted as a pitcher or as a positional player. However, improved stuff this spring accompanied by positive results have designated his future to be on the mound for now. Ball, in addition to his 90-95 mph heater, also has a feel for his breaking ball, although he only began throwing it with frequency this year. His change up also shows promise and is very advanced for a prep pitcher. There is still a slim chance a team could selects him as a positional player, but with his mix of strong pitches and excellent athleticism, his future appears brighter on the mound.
Stock: Ball's stock has risen throughout the spring as his velocity has increased and featured more consistency. It is highly unlikely that he is on the board when the Rays first pick, and there is a chance he is selected in the top five picks.
Sean Manaea, Indiana State (LHP, 6'5, 235 lbs.)
Best Attribute: Teams that draft Manaea will hope that he reverts back to his dazzling form in last year's Cape Cod League.
Analysis: Breaking out in the Cape Cod League last summer, Sean Manaea blew hitters away with an explosive fastball that routinely hit 96 mph and a wipe-out slider. This led to 85 strikeouts in only 52 innings, and he profiled as a number two starter. However, Maeaea has not been the same this year, battling through injuries while experiencing a regression in stuff. His fastball is still an above average pitch, ranging from the high 80s to 94 mph. However, his slider is very inconsistent and his change-up is only average. His command is not strong either, which makes him look like a future average starter.
Stock: He needs to prove that he is healthy and show some of the form he displayed last summer if he wants to be among the top 5 picks. Otherwise, he could go anywhere in the first round, most likely to a team that still sees the promise in his arm.
Ryan Stanek, Arkansas (RHP, 6'4, 190 lbs.)
Best Attribute: Stanek has the pitches of a top of the rotation starter, and a team that can help him improve his pitch selection could unlock his potential.
Analysis: It seems that every draft has a college pitcher in the first half of the first round who features plus stuff but is unable to get the expected convincing results. This year, that pitcher is Stanek. For his college career, Stanek has averaged around seven strikeout per nine innings, and he is often unable to dominate college lineups. This is despite his plus stuff, including a fastball that ranges from 92-98 mph, a big breaking slider, a nice curveball, and a solid changeup. Depending upon what source you read, either his slider or his curveball is the superior off speed pitch. Keith Law has speculated that Stanek's issues stem from poor pitch selection, while others suggest factors such as command and his delivery. This inability to get results has caused some to peg him as a future reliever.
Stock: Considered a candidate to go first overall before the year, Stanek has left evaluators confused over his future role and value.
Jonathan Crawford, Florida (RHP, 6'1, 205 lbs.)
Best Attribute: Jonathan Crawford features an impressive fastball/slider combination.
Analysis: Continuing the trend of pitchers whose stock has slipped, Crawford broke out last year in the Florida Gator's rotation but has regressed a little this year statistically. Crawford's best pitch is his fastball, which sits in the mid-90s. He backs the fastball up with a plus slider that he struggles to command. There are two main factors that lead evaluators to believe that Crawford will be a reliever professionally. First of all, his change up lags far behind the other two pitches. His delivery is also poor, and he struggles to find his release point.
Stock: Jonathan Crawford's stock has fallen a little, but he should still get taken somewhere in the middle of the first round.
Hunter Harvey, North Carolina H.S. (RHP, 6'3, 175 lbs)
Best Attribute: Hunter Harvey has a nice combination of projectability, present stuff, and eagerness to enter pro ball.
Analysis: Like most prep pitchers, Harvey relies mostly on his fastball, and he throws a good one. Although it was reported that he hit 97-98 mph, he most often sits in the 90-94 range. He also throws a curveball that needs work but shows potential. Because of the (lack of) quality of his opponents, his change up is not needed and only thrown during his bullpen sessions. However, it is considered a good pitch that will only improve with more usage.
Stock: It will be interesting to see where Harvery goes. Strictly on a talent basis, he should be selected in the Rays' range. On the other hand, his lack of a college commitment due to his desire to turn pro immediately may tempt teams to take him earlier.
Phil Bickford, California H.S. (RHP, 6'4, 185 lbs.)
Best Attribute: Few prep pitchers can boast a fastball as lively as Bickford's.
Analysis: No pitcher listed so far fits the high upside and low floor description better than Bickford. His fastball is already labeled an easy plus pitch, sitting at 90-93 but reaching the upper 90s. With his projectability, he has the potential to reach triple digits if he fills out. It is Bickford's lack of quality secondary pitches that takes him out of the elite prospect range; he does not have much of a feel for his breaking ball and his change up is raw.
Stock: The increasing velocity has raised his stock, and he is now viewed as a solid bet for the first round. He should be around when the Rays make their first pick, and very well could be around for the Rays second pick (#29 overall).
Chris Anderson, Jacksonville (RHP, 6'4, 225 lbs.)
Best Attribute: With his big body and strong delivery, Anderson delivers two pitches that should grade out as plus.
Analysis: Unlike a few of the players already mentioned, Anderson started the season strong, firing a mid-90s fastball and using a plus slider. However, over-usage by Jacksonville has caused him to slip as of late. Still, it is easy to see Anderson as a middle of the rotation starter who eats innings. The high floor with the solid ceiling should make him a very desirable option somewhere in the first round.
Stock: It is hard to envision Anderson slipping out of the first round, though there is a solid chance he is available for the Rays' first pick.
Hunter Green, Kentucky H.S. (LHP, 6'4, 180 lbs.)
Best Attribute: With a long, lanky build, Green can add velocity to his fastball.
Analysis: After coming out throwing his fastball in the 80s, Hunter Green has slowly built up his velocity to the point where it is now in the low-90s. The pitch has good movement, and he complements it with a change up and slider that either feature average or plus potential depending on the report.
Stock: Green's stock has been rising, but he should be available for the Rays first two picks.
Matt Krook, California H.S. (LHP, 6'2)
Best Attribute: Like many left handed high school pitchers, much of Krook's value comes from his projectability.
Analysis: Baseball America said in their report, "Krook had as much helium as any high school prospect this spring—no surprise considering how much scouts love lefthanders with his size and stuff." At the same time, Krook has been wildly inconsistent with his velocity varying greatly start from start. At his best, he shows a low-90's fastball that touches 95 mph and a hard curveball.
Stock: Krook needs plenty of work, but if the Rays want to take on a project with one of their first two picks, Krook could be the guy.
At this point in the draft, many of the high upside pitchers either are all projection or have serious flaws. In the third part of the 2013 draft preview on the pitching side, I will take a quick look at some of the high-upside guys who may be around for the Rays third, fourth, and fifth picks.