What do I expect from a pick in the 40's and fifties? What is there to know about Missouri State? What do I look for in a pitcher?
While, in theory, I could go into quite a bit more detail on this game, I was a bit occupied. The question at hand is, "Would I pick Pierce Johnson in the two latter First Round picks?" Three questions that I will ask (that have little to do with Pierce Johnson) precede my assessment.
When the Cubs pick sixth in the first round, I expect a quality regular. Either a TOR pitcher, or a hitter that could represent in the middle of the order. With the 43 (Ramirez) or the 56 (Pena) selections, the expectations drop a bit. In reality, if the selection nets a third starter or a year-on-year regular for a few years, that rates as really good. So, if Johnson (or anyone else) is in that range of projection, I will sign off on them.
Missouri State, when I was looking into the MVC Tournament, seems to be blessed with a pitching-friendly coach. Keith Guttin's program has sent Jeff Gray, Ross Detweiler, Brad Ziegler, and Shawn Marcum into big league pipelines. This tells me he values the arm over the win. He probably also has a quality pitching coach, in Paul Evans. I would, from my slapdash research, welcome more pitchers from Missouri State in the future.
I loathe when the Cubs rely on sinker/slider pitchers. From Warren Brusstar and Dick Ruthven to guys before and since the mid-80's, please can we get some quality arms? I don't particularly like the guys that throw in the mid-90's with no concept where the ball is going. I'm also about sick of Nibblers. Throw a pitch in the zone, challenging the opposition to hit the ball. If they make contact on a well-positioned pitch, take comfort in your defense making a play. I'm completely down with bringing in six to eight solid college starters this draft. There are decent arms in the 2012 June draft. Bring them in, run them through the system, and get some to Wrigley. Much preferred to more 'grindy middle-infielder types'. I digress.
Pierce Johnson is a 6-3 ish 180 pound-ish righty pitcher. When his velocity is right, he can be in the mid-90's. His slider is frightening.
The first hitter he faced went like this. Fastball (92?) outer half of the zone. 2-9 slider (swing and miss). 2-9 slider (swing and miss). I'm already sold. Illinois State's offense isn't SEC quality, but they have some people who can hit a bit. The first hit was an oppo-single following a near wind-aided homer by lefty DH Greg Partyka. Probably a better change-up would have come in handy against Partyka. Johnson, for now, seems to feature the FB, and close with the Whiffle-Ball slider. Some of the contact against Johnson carries. Not so much because he's getting squared up, but because he throws with good velocity.
In the third, he got behind the first hitter before coaxing a fly to routine left. The next two hitters singled on well-struck pitches, though by no means did either one get 'squared-up'. Think a Theriot single. The third successive hit was a wind-aided hump-back liner off the wall 340 feet away. Then, with runners on second and third in a tie game, he fanned two respected hitters, looking, including using a nice change against the lefty that hit him in the first.
A run in the fourth scored on a seeing-eye single with the catcher whiffing on a throw to the plate.
The fifth inning was fun to watch. He fanned the side in order, with only one requiring over four pitches. I the sixth, he walked a guy. Then picked him off. At one point, he fielded a bunt. And threw it to the man covering first. Not the tarp. Or the fans near the dugout.
Of the three runs he allowed, two were earned. One more shouldn't have been. Eight innings. Nine hits, a walk, and 12 strikeouts. 3 assists. I'm sold for either 43 or 56.
I'm not sure who the Cubs will pick with their two later second round picks in Round One. Tanner Rahier is a solid-sounding SS from high school in California. Tyler Mathison is a Texas prep two-way catcher. Martin Agosta is a pitcher for St. Mary's I'd like to see. Pierce Johnson is probably on the Cubs radar for their second, third, or fourth selection. As long as Team Theo pegs guys in those spots that represent either quick-movers or high-ceiling preps, I will be a happy camper.
Pierce Johnson would qualify.
This was a great game. In an elimination game, Johnson missed getting the win as his pen gakked a three run lead in the ninth. No, Carlos Marmol wasn't making a rehab appearance. Missouri State also gave up a 2-run lead in the 12th, before winning in 13.