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Rays draft 2015: Pitcher preview, part one

These pitchers boast big fastballs or swing-and-miss inducing breaking balls

Kyle Funkhouser was a sure top-15 pick, but now no one is certain
Kyle Funkhouser was a sure top-15 pick, but now no one is certain
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Rather than breaking pitchers into high school and college posts, I think it's better to split them up into two profiles: pitchers that should have the stuff to post big strikeout totals, and pitchers that are likely to rely on command, pitchability and getting outs on the ground. This post will feature the former.

RHP Walker Buehler, Vanderbilt (20 Y.O. 6'1 160)

Best attribute: Buehler owns a four-pitch arsenal.

Analysis: All of Buehler's offerings are potentially above-average or plus pitches. His 92-94 MPH fastball that can touch higher with movement may be his best. His curveball is his superior breaking ball, and every report mentions that sometimes his pitch can get slurvy, which could lead to an instructor getting him to scrap the slider. His changeup has some movement, but he could use some more reps. Some teams may be concerned about his lack of size and elbow soreness that gave him a late start this season, but the depth of his arsenal and strike-throwing ability are impressive.

Stock: Buehler looks like he is going to be picked in the top half of the first round.

RHP Kyle Funkhouser, Louisville (21 Y.O. 6'2 218)

Best attribute: Funkhouser boasts a pair of potential plus pitches in his fastball and breaking ball.

Analysis: With his size and stuff, Funkhouser should be an easy top-10 choice, especially in a draft that has been decimated by injuries. However, recent poor starts have left some wondering if his stock is slipping. He allowed seven runs -- five earned -- against Clemson in the ACC Tournament and walked four in six innings in his regular season finale. Even when he's on, his control can be below average. His 92-94 MPH fastball generates groundballs, and his plus breaking ball gets swing and misses. His changeup sometimes flashes average to above average.

Stock: Louisville has never had a player selected before the supplemental round despite being a top national program for a long time. Funkhouser should beat that as a mid-first rounder.

RHP Jon Harris, Missouri State (21 Y.O. 6'4 190)

Best attribute: Harris has a plus fastball, and he might not be done adding to it.

Analysis: Harris fires that pitch is the 92-94 MPH range with movement, and because of his size and growth he has shown in college, scouts believe that pitch could become even harder. He complements it with a curveball that could be one of the best in the class, and he mixes in a slider and changeup as well. Throwing strikes can become problematic, but he is an athlete that can improve the consistency in his delivery.

Stock: Harris' ceiling in this draft is probably the Rays' pick at 13th overall.

LHP Justin Hooper, California H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'7 230- committed to UCLA)

Best attribute: Hooper could have the hardest fastball among high schoolers in this draft.

Analysis: With his mid-90s heat and size, Hooper is an intimidating presence on the mound. With his wavering control, he can produce some uncomfortable at-bats. Hooper will take patience, as is the case with many pitchers with his height. The payoff for a team can be big, though. His breaking ball and changeup both show promise, and he does have the athleticism to straighten his delivery out.

Stock: Hooper could be available for the Rays in the second round, but a team confident in its development staff could take him off the board.

LHP Tyler Jay, Illinois (21 Y.O. 6'1 175)

Best attribute: Jay's breaking ball is a true swing-and-miss offering.

Analysis: Jay has all the ingredients of a starter, but Illinois has frustrated evaluators all season long by having him pitch out of the bullpen. In longer stints, he has shown he can maintain his top-notch stuff. In addition to that breaking ball, he can dial his fastball into the mid-90s. He may take more patience than the typical college star pitcher because of the Illini's decision making, but he has shown he has a changeup in him and has the command teams want.

Stock: The Rays have a shot at drafting Jay if the teams immediately preceding them want to make a safer pick.

Rays 2015 draft previews

RHP Cole McKay, Texas H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'5 220-committed to LSU)

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

Analysis: Texas high-school pitchers tend to be stereotyped as fireballing, big guys. McKay is that Texas high-school pitcher. Although his velocity has been a bit down this spring, the pitch has life and is difficult to hit. He complements the heater with a hard breaking ball that could be an above-average or plus pitch, and he has a bit of a feel for a changeup. He throws strikes despite some effort in his delivery.

Stock: McKay looks like a third- to fifth-rounder, depending on how teams feel about ironing out his weaknesses.

RHP Mike Nikorak, Pennsylvania H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'5 205- committed to Alabama)

Best attribute: Nikorak added strength over the past year, and increased fastball velocity came with it.

Analysis: Before he got stronger, Nikorak was unimposing and sported an average fastball. Now, he can run his fastball into the upper-90s at times, and he managed to maintain the athleticism from earlier in his career. His breaking ball could be a second plus pitch, and he shows the potential for an above-average changeup. He does a good job throwing strikes, but he has to develop his stamina to hold his stuff later in outings.

Stock: Nikorak is a mid-first rounder.

RHP Wesley Rodriguez, New York H.S. (18 Y.O. 5'11 200- committed to Pittsburgh)

Best attribute: Rodriguez has touched 98 MPH.

Analysis: Right now, Rodriguez is a bit of a 1 1/2-pitch pitcher right now, led by his plus-or-better heater. His breaking ball is not consistent but could be above average. Like most players from the northeast, he has a lot to work on still. He's gotten himself into better shape, which is certainly important at his size. His changeup needs a lot of work, and his command has to continue getting better.

Stock: Pitt is not exactly a destination program that steals players from professional contracts, and Rodriguez is expected to be signable in the third- to fifth-rounds.

RHP Antonio Stantillian, Texas H.S. (18 Y.O. 6'3 195- committed to Texas Tech)

Best attribute: Stantillian's fastball may eclipse any in Texas this year.

Analysis: Stantillian has the look of a power pitcher, especially if MLB's listed weight of 240 pounds is to be believed. He is throwing harder than McKay right now, but he may be even more raw. He can lose his delivery at a moment's notice, and with that goes any kind of control. His breaking ball is a potential plus pitch, but it is not going to matter if he can't harness it.

Stock: Teams love power arms, so Stantillian will probably be looked at in the third- to fifth-rounds.

RHP Josh Staumont, Azusa Pacific (21 Y.O. 6'2 205)

Best attribute: Staumont's fastball has touched triple-digits in short stints.

Analysis: The Rays may have whiffed on evaluating another Azusa Pacific player, Stephen Vogt, but they have another chance with Staumont. He could have the best fastball velocity in the class, and he pairs it with a plus breaking ball that could easily make him a back-end reliever. He has an athletic delivery, and teams hope that will help him improve on his weaknesses, namely inconsistent command and underwhelming changeup.

Stock: Staumont could go at the end of Day 1, but if he doesn't, he won't be around long on Day 2.