Normally in Draft Prep, I talk quite a bit about hitters. After all, this front office likes to draft hitters early, and pitchers later. Therefore, since most people that want to talk about the draft want to know who sounds likely with the ninth overall pick, that's where I spend most of my column inches.This might lead people to think I don't like college pitching. That's rather inaccurate. I prefer college hitters to college hitters.
I'm at a point with college pitchers where I have a game I like to play. Based on any information I have about a pitcher, I like to guess, before I see him pitch to a hitter, which level of minor league hitters he could get out now. The key there is the word now. Imagine I flip on a Friday night game between Nevada and New Mexico. Both are legitimate, though not powerhouse, baseball schools. I'd look at their ERA numbers, strikeouts and walks, hits-to-innings. Then, I listen to the pregame show, and the segment before the first pitch.
A good announcer, and most decent ones, will give you a thumbnail on the pitching matchup. If he throws in the low-to-mid 90s, has good general numbers, then he ends up at a level. The better his numbers/velocity, the better he grades out. Along with this comes the companion game, where would I draft him on his numbers. Of course, this is largely a charade, but it trains me to think in the way I want to think.
Similarly, some of you are wondering what sort of pro hitter can a guy in the low 90s retire? The minor leagues are six levels deep. Having good talent (that is age-appropriate) at any one level allows you some injury cushion on having a good team the next year at the level one layer higher. While that doesn't matter to most people, it plays with me.
For what seemed an awfully long time, the Cubs had about five or six pitchers in Peoria or Kane County who seemed like they should advance to the next level the next season. That would have been Daytona. Then, when one of them would get injured and need surgery, I could likely cross one off the list.
The pitching staff in Myrtle Beach this year figures to be quite good. Whether you want to start with Duane Underwood or Jen-Ho Tseng, the top two should be fine. Toss in Paul Blackburn, and Jonathan Martinez, four rotation guys figure to be good. If Tyler Skulina is back to as good as he was in April for Kane County, that would make five solid options.
Back to the college arms: If a guy seems to be good enough now to get out pro hitters, at some level, he deserves to be considered for being drafted. Character comes into play, as does willingness to commit to being a pro pitcher, and his willingness to be coached. Many pitchers in the warm-weather conferences are very worthy of being drafted. The ones that will be good pros, particularly up the ladder, are the ones that are willing to parlay talent and coaching. By drafting a heap of those each June, and getting a dozen of them signed, you upgrade your system's pitching. For all the justified talk of the Cubs hitting in the minor leagues, their pitching is much improved, as well. To say it's all coaching, or drafting, or co-incidence is basically denying reality. I think more than ever a minor league system has many moving parts. In a healthy system, one piece links to another like puzzle pieces.
As snide as a person could have been in years past over decision-making in the pipeline, it's tough to seriously argue many key calls effectively. This is, in part, because pitching and hitting are at a reasonable split now. Draft hitters early, pitchers later, and acknowledge the increased inherent risk of pitchers. And the illogic in spending a two million dollar bonus on any of them, if good hitters are still available.
DJ Stewart, the Florida State left fielder, hit three homers over the weekend. One went to the opposite field. One was as long of a blast as veteran Seminoles coach Mike Martin has ever seen. The Eligible pitchers continue to be injury risks. Prep Kolby Allard will miss about two months, and JuCo option Mac Marshall left his last start with a thumb injury.
Draft hitting early, and pitching later.