2009 Draft Prospects Rundown 5/10

The draft is less than a month away, and we’re starting to hear more certainty about how the first round is going to shape up. Not that this is a big surprise, but the Nationals are rumored to be a guarantee to take Stephen Strasburg. At number two there have been rumors that Seattle could then take Tanner Scheppers.

We remember Scheppers as the second round pick we didn’t sign from last year’s draft. Despite the outrage that will arise if Scheppers does go second overall, I would welcome the move. That would guarantee that the Pirates have a shot at one of Dustin Ackley, or Tyler Matzek.

Ackley is the best hitter in the draft, currently hitting for a .399/.527/.731 line in 193 at bats, with 15 homers. Matzek is the best high school arm in the draft, and the best left hander according to Baseball America. Through 62.2 innings he has a 1.58 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, a 10.8 K/9, 3.6 K/BB, and one homer allowed.

So why Matzek and not a college arm like Alex White or Kyle Gibson? Here are a few reasons:

-There is a lot of abuse with the college arms. Alex White, for example, has gone over 120 pitches three times this year. Kyle Gibson has gone over 110 pitches in nine starts. I don’t have pitch count data for Matzek, but considering high school games go seven innings, he’s likely to have less wear and tear on his arm.

-The Pirates can shape Matzek to be the pitcher they want him to be. Right now he’s got his high school coach. If the Pirates draft a college arm, they have to deal with any problems from not just high school coaches, but from college coaches.

-White and Gibson are probably the only arms worthy of going fourth overall. White has turned it on lately, with a 2.78 ERA in his last six starts. However, there is still the abuse problem, and his tendency to rely on a splitter too much, which can lead to arm problems. Gibson got off to a hot start, but if you take out his first five games, he has a 5.64 ERA on the season. He also has allowed five homers in his last three starts, and eight homers in his last 52.2 innings pitched, after allowing none in the 39 innings pitched over his first five starts.

So combine the fact that none of the college arms are overly impressive right now, they all are throwing too many pitches, and the Pirates can start fresh with training Matzek, and that’s why I like Matzek.

I’ve added Matzek, Aaron Crow, and Tanner Scheppers to the Draft Prospects Tracker recently. Crow and Scheppers begin their regular seasons this Thursday. If Crow has a solid month, I would also consider him at number four.

The top pick has to be Ackley. The Pirates are short on pitching prospects, but they are also short on talent. Ackley is certainly talented, and a future lineup containing Ackley, Alvarez, McCutchen, Tabata, Doumit, and McLouth would look great.

Ackley is also the best choice amongst hitters. Grant Green is looking good at the plate, hitting for a .362/.445/.552 line, but has minimal power, and 15 errors on the season, or one every three games on average. That’s not exactly encouraging at the shortstop position.

Rich Poythress has impressive power, with 21 homers in 195 at bats. That seems to be the only thing separating him from Ackley right now. Poythress has seen his average slip to .395, with a .485 OBP, and a .785 SLG. Compare that to Ackley’s .399/.527/.731, and consider that Ackley has the potential to play in the outfield as well, and Poythress slips below Ackley on the rankings.

Next week we will have seen the first regular season starts from Crow and Scheppers, and I will be recapping those starts, as well as discussing the possibility of those two players going in the top four.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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