David Garner, righthanded pitcher, 6-1, 180
Drafted in the seventh round in 2013
Potential landing spot in 2013: Boise
In baseball, the Big Ten is the land of the 87-91 mile per hour fastball. No offense intended, but the major player in football and basketball just isn't in baseball. The 64-team NCAA field will usually have two or three teams from the conference, but having only one is not out of the question. Southern schools have a huge edge in college baseball, as do teams in the central coastal regions, like the Carolinas. Pitchers can start pitching outside earlier, hitters can face live pitching earlier, and the local kid who is the 30th player on the team as a freshman is probably a better option to have a pro career.
Kids from the upper Midwest that actually are good at baseball in high school are as likely to 'go south or go pro' as play at an Ohio State, Michigan, or similar Big Ten option. Schools in the conference have good players, of course. Only, not as many as schools in the conferences that house Florida, California, or Texas schools.
Scouting the upper Midwest for baseball is less a priority than the warm weather states.
David Garner stared slowly in his college career at East Lansing. He moved his velocity up to 94 in spurts, which made him a bit of an odd duck in the Big Ten. (Every year, a few pitchers represent and get drafted, some early, from the Big Ten. They are usually ones that developed into solid options.) With Garner, two main options exist for April and May assignments.
One is to outplay more entrenched and established arms for a spot in the Kane County rotation. If he can't make the top seven or so arms (and I don't see him as a reliever yet), he will stay behind in Mesa for extended spring training. While for Garner, being tracked for Boise isn't necessarily a good thing, with two months in Mesa, he could join a potentially solid-looking Boise rotation. Solid systems usually have more good starting pitchers than they have spots for starting pitchers. For too many years, the Cubs pitchers at lower levels have had more promise than production. As that changes, so will results up the ladder.
Hopefully, prep draftees from the last few years will push for spots in Boise. Ryan McNeil, Trevor Graham, and Trevor Clifton should make a solid push for Boise innings. Then, toss in a string of college arms who, like Garner, might not be ready for full-season ball yet, and close it out with a few who pitched in Boise briefly last season, or may have graduated from the international ranks. Having eight or 10 very solid starting options at short-season ball trumps having three starters and four relievers to trust, which has been the case in the not-so-distant past.
I can't impart much knowledge on Garner that I feel comfortable going with. He's been spotty in his work last year in Arizona. He had a good strikeout pitch. If he irons out his command and control, he could move through the system. He is a former Big Ten pitcher, for better and worse. That arms like Garner will have to earn their way up, even to short-season ball is a good thing.