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Rays draft 2014: Pitcher preview, part two

These pitchers don't have the huge ceilings, but organizations need strike throwers too

Luke Weaver, or any Seminole for that matter, was not celebrating like that this weekend
Luke Weaver, or any Seminole for that matter, was not celebrating like that this weekend

Corner position preview
Pitchers, part one

Pitchers in this group are probably only going to fire a plus fastball in a short burst.  Some of the high school arms could do so in the future when they add strength, but that's not a guarantee.  They're safer pitchers who rely on getting ahead in counts and pitchability, or mixing up pitches and locations.

The Rays certainly don't seek out this profile in the first round, so this list has players expected to go in the second round or a few beyond.  They might not be too interested in the college arms, but they could see enough upside in the high school ones.

RHP Chris Ellis, Mississippi (21 Y.O. 6'5 215)

Best attribute: Ellis' breaking ball may be his best pitch.

Analysis: With its movement and low-90's velocity, Ellis' fastball may be one of the best discussed here.  What lands him with these other pitchers is that he only had 54 strikeouts in 95.1 innings.  He simply doesn't miss very many bats, but he's a big, durable guy that throws strikes.  Whether his breaking ball or changeup is his best secondary pitch seems to be up for debate depending on who wrote the report.

Stock: Ellis should be around for the Rays' competitive balance pick or even in the third round.

RHP Jack Flaherty, California H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'4 205- committed to North Carolina)

Best attribute: Flaherty can throw strikes.

Analysis: Not long after producing Max Fried and Lucas Giolito, Harvard-Westlake is at it again with another pitcher that should be drafted early.  He's not as good as either of those top prospects, but he can pitch.  He works with four pitches, led by his changeup which is a potential plus pitch.  His fastball hovers around 90, but he could add to that as he gets stronger.  Of his two breaking pitches, his low-80's slider is probably better.

Stock: Flaherty could still be around in the second round, but he'll be a tough sign.  He could be a two-way player at UNC.

LHP Foster Griffin, Florida H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'5 190- committed to Mississippi)

Best attribute: Griffin's changeup is one of the best among high school pitchers this year.

Analysis: He has an average fastball now, but Griffin has room to get stronger and add some velocity.  A couple extra ticks would be huge for him to go along with his plus changeup.  He's already shown the ability to dial it up a bit when needed, and he could break out if he's able to do so consistently.  He throws strikes and locates his pitches, and he just needs to improve his breaking ball.

Stock: As far as the Rays are concerned, Griffin is a tweener.  20th overall maybe a bit too soon for him, but it seems extremely unlikely he's still there in round two.

LHP Matt Imhof, Cal Poly (20 Y.O. 6'5 230)

Best attribute: Imhof's array of fastballs keeps hitters off balance.

Analysis: Whether Imhof belongs in this post or last week's is a perfectly legitimate question.  With 124 strikeouts and 43 walks in 99.1 innings this year, he's obviously not performing as a pitch to contact pitcher, yet whether he has the stuff to miss that many bats as a professional is still in doubt.  He needs to improve his slider and changeup and refine his command.

Stock: Imhof looks to be a second round pick.  He may not make it to the Rays in that round.

RHP Cobi Johnson, Florida H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'4 180- committed to Florida State)

Best attribute: Johnson has the pitchability one might expect from a professional coach's son.

Analysis: Johnson's dad Dane is a pitching instructor with Toronto.  His fastball has just average velocity, but he can generate ground balls with it.  He could gain velocity as he gets stronger as well.  His curveball is probably going to be his best pitch, and he already shows a feel for a changeup.  Some deception in his delivery helps his pitches play up, and he throws a lot of strikes.

Stock: It looks like Johnson is a third to fifth rounder.  He missed some time with a sore elbow this spring, and that could be a huge wild card.

For more on the 2014 draft

LHP Mac Marshall, Georgia H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'2 185- committed to LSU)

Best attribute: Marshall's changeup could be a plus pitch.

Analysis: Marshall's fastball is generally in the high-80's.  Whether he has the room on his frame to add strength and more velocity seems to be a question.  Fortunately, he's left handed, and they're typically able to get away with an average fastball as long as they can locate the pitch, which is another thing he has to improve on.  His changeup and curveball could both be plus pitches down the road.

Stock: Marshall looks to be a second round pick.

RHP Keaton McKinney, Iowa H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'5 230- committed to Arkansas)

Best attribute: McKinney is another high school arm with an impressive changeup.

Analysis: McKinney learned that changeup from another Iowan pitcher, the Rays' own Jeremy Hellickson.  That's where the comparisons end though because McKinney is much, much bigger.  His fastball has average velocity, and that'll probably always be the case because he's already as strong as he's going to get.  Fortunately, he throws on a downhill plane, pounds the strike zone and has an adequate secondary arsenal.

Stock: McKinney should be there in the second round, and probably at their competitive balance pick too.

LHP Erik Skoglund, Central Florida (21 Y.O. 6'7 200)

Best attribute: A lot of pitchers that tall have trouble finding the strike zone, but Skoglund throws strikes.

Analysis: Last year, I wrote about another UCF pitcher, Ben Lively, who's in the midst of a breakout season with the Reds organization.

Frankly, that's not relevant at all aside from them attending the same school.  Skoglund is a different kind of pitcher.  He uses his size well to keep the ball down, and he could add velocity down the road.  His listed weight fluctuates from 170 pounds to 200, and if it's on the lower end, he could still get stronger and add to his average velocity.  His slider and changeup could be average pitches.

Stock: Skoglund looks like a third or fourth round pick.

LHP Andrew Suarez, Miami (21 Y.O. 6'2 205)

Best attribute: Suarez only walked 15 batters in 109.2 innings this year.

Analysis: Despite a shoulder injury earlier in his career, Suarez has rebounded and can run his fastball up to the low-90's and touch even higher.  He can throw strikes too, as his walk rate above indicates.  As he's further removed from his injury, his stuff has improved too, going from a 5.9 K/9 as a sophomore to over 7.0 this year.  His slider could be an above average pitch, and he shows feel for a changeup too.

Stock: Suarez should be taken in the second or third round, but I'm sure labrum surgery on his record will give teams pause.

RHP Luke Weaver, Florida State (20 Y.O. 6'2 170)

Best attribute: Weaver's changeup is an above average pitch.

Analysis: Weaver was once seen as a near certain first rounder with a strong sophomore season and a summer velocity spike, but he wasn't quite as good as a junior.  He went from striking out over a batter per inning to 85 in 106.1 this year.  His average fastball has sink, he throws a lot of strikes and a nice track record of performance in a strong conference.  His slider is an average pitch.

Stock: If his breaking ball was better, Weaver would be a safe bet for the first round.  As it stands, he'll probably go sometime in the second.

Guy who doesn't fit this mold, but I neglected to mention last week

RHP Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt (21 Y.O. 6'4 200)

Best attribute: Beede's fastball can reach the mid-90's.

Analysis: Tyler Beede is one of the more well known players in this class after turning down a pretty sizable signing bonus offered by Toronto, and he has some of the best stuff too.  In addition to his hard fastball, his changeup and hard breaking ball are two potential plus pitches, and that kind of talent is hard to pass up.  What's concerning is that his control hasn't shown any progress in his three years at Vanderbilt.  He walked 43 batters and hit 12 more in 98.1 innings this year.

Stock: There's a really good chance Beede is there for the Rays if they think they can work out his mechanics and get him to throw more strikes.

Kirsch's club

Paul Kirsch is the Rays' area scout for the Pacific Northwest. They tend to take a number of players from that region, indicating a high level of trust in his evaluations. Some of the players they've drafted and signed from there include Jason Hammel, Zac Rosscup, Ryan Brett, Drew Vettleson, Blake Snell, Jeff Ames, and Josh Sale. Jacoby Ellsbury leads a list of players they've drafted from there but did not sign. Here are some players from the northwest in this year's draft that could be on their radar.

RHP Jeff Brigham, Washington (22 Y.O. 6'0 183): The Huskies are having their best season in a decade, and Brigham is a big part of it.  His sinker generates a ton of ground outs.

RHP Gage Burland, Washington H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'2 190- committed to Gonzaga): Burland isn't even the only player named Gage on this list with an average fastball and developing curveball and changeup.

LHP Porter Clayton, Oregon (21 Y.O. 6'4 210): Clayton is struggling for the Ducks this year, but he did miss the last two seasons on a Mormon mission.

RHP Jeff Gold, Oregon (23 Y.O. 6'2 170): Gold has eight walks in 94.2 innings this year.

RHP Gage Hinsz, Montana H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'5 210- committed to Oregon State): Coming from the baseball hotbed of Montana, Hinsz uses his size and average fastball to get ground balls.

RHP Branden Kelliher, Washington H.S. (18 Y.O. 5'11 178- committed to Oregon): Despite his size, Kelliher's average fastball isn't a flat pitch, and he complements it with a nice changeup.

LHP Joe Pistorese, Washington State (21 Y.O. 6'1 175): Pistorese can get away with an average at best fastball by throwing strikes and mixing up his pitches.

RHP Drew Rasmussen, Washington H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'1 210- committed to Oregon State): Rasmussen's not too big, but he throws strikes and has a nice changeup.

LHP Tommy Thorpe, Oregon (21 Y.O. 6'1 195): Despite a fastball that tops out in the high-80's, Thorpe has been extremely successful in the Ducks' rotation.

LHP Ben Wetzler, Oregon State (22 Y.O. 6'1 212): Wetzler may be more well known for the Phillies gleefully throwing him under the bus when he didn't sign last year, but he led the NCAA in ERA and throws a ton of strikes.

Sources for this info come from Minor League Ball, Baseball America, ESPN and Baseball Prospectus