Last week I cut a list of 15 draft prospects down to nine players. The college regular season is coming to a close, and the draft is a little over two weeks away. Therefore, it’s time to cut that list of nine draft prospects down to six. The end result of all of this will be to settle on the top three players for the Pirates to take at pick number four in the 2009 MLB draft (Stephen Strasburg is number one, but I’m not going to waste time talking about him since there’s no chance he falls to us).
To make this as dramatic as possible, let’s review the prospects before making the decision on who to cut.
For information on each player, check out the 2009 Draft Prospects Tracker, or just click on their names below to go to their individual profile page.
Dustin Ackley - Ackley finished off his regular season with a strong performance in the ACC tournament. Ackley went 4 for 13 in the tournament with three homers, giving him 20 homers on the season and a .399 average. The .399 average is actually down from his .417 average last year, but he has almost tripled his amount of homers in the process. That’s a fair trade-off. Ackley is also getting playing time in center field, making him a lock as the top hitting prospect in the draft.
Grant Green – Green is a great hitter, finishing the season with a .374 average, but that’s about it. He has four homers in 211 at bats this season, and more errors this year than career homers in his time at USC. I feel that if he was in a draft with a lot of good hitting prospects, like last year’s draft for example, he’d be a late first round pick. He benefits from a weak crop of hitters, and a position that is thin.
Alex White - White entered the season as a candidate to be the top pitching prospect behind Strasburg. He did nothing to help his case, with a 4.13 ERA on the season, finishing off with a 2.1 inning, 8 run performance against UVA. He also comes with arm worries, as he relies heavily on a split finger fastball, which can cause strain on the arm, and his pitch count has been consistently over 100 pitches all season, sometimes topping out above 120 and 130.
Kyle Gibson - Gibson has been linked to the Pirates, and wouldn’t be a bad choice. He finished the season strong, going six shutout innings, striking out seven, and walking three. That gives Gibson a 3.50 ERA on the season, and a 122:18 K/BB ratio in 97.2 innings. The worry with Gibson is the high pitch counts, with Gibson throwing around 115 or more pitches in six of his last seven starts. He also doesn’t project as a dominant ace, although he projects as a quick rising major league talent.
Tyler Matzek - Matzek is the top prep pitcher in the draft, and the top left handed pitcher. He recent pitched four no hit innings, striking out six and walking one. When it comes to high school players, I don’t consider a no hitter very significant. He has a 90-93 MPH fastball, which peaks at 94 MPH. Baseball America compares him to Joe Saunders, which isn’t bad since Saunders posted a 3.41 ERA last year, and is following that up with a 3.17 ERA this year. However, Saunders isn’t an ace, and unless Matzek added velocity to his fastball, he won’t be either (though a guy like Saunders would be nice).
Aaron Crow - Crow is really improving his stock in Indy ball. In his second outing, Crow went six innings, allowing no runs on three hits, striking out four, and walking none. He was very efficient, needing only 67 pitches to get the job done. So far Crow has allowed no runs and five hits in 11 innings, with a 13:2 K/BB ratio. He throws a fastball between 92 and 96, and a hard sinker with great command. The Pirates seem to love ground ball pitchers, so Crow would fit in. Plus he will probably rise through the system quickly.
Shelby Miller - I don’t have any stats on Miller (or any of the final three players), but I have read the scouting reports, and he would be a solid high school arm to take. Miller has a strong fastball, which he usually throws at 92-93 MPH, but tops out at 96 MPH. He also has good mechanics, putting him at low risk for an arm injury.
Jacob Turner - Turner ranks right above Miller in the Baseball America rankings, but has been slipping in a lot of draft projections. That’s mostly due to signability issues, as Scott Boras is looking for a record tying contract of $7 M for a high school pitcher, matching Rick Porcello and Josh Beckett. Turner is 6’5″, 205 lbs, and has a 92-94 MPH fastball which tops out at 98 MPH. Right now it seems more likely that he’ll be drafted closer to the Pirates’ second pick (#49) than their first pick (#4), although he wouldn’t be a bad choice with the first pick.
Donovan Tate - Tate is the top prep hitter in the draft, but has committed to UNC for both baseball and football. The only concern there would be that Tate might not be fully focused on baseball, and might be more inclined to go to college where he can pursue a career in either sport. Baseball America ranks him as the top center field prospect, and describes him as a better hitting Jeff Francoeur.
The first player I’m cutting this week is Shelby Miller. I can’t justify taking him with guys like Crow, Matzek, Gibson, and White still out there.
The next player to go is Grant Green. He’s a great hitter, and maybe he will develop some fielding skills. However, I feel he stands out only because this is a weak hitting group. The Pirates need pitching prospects anyways, so no need to reach for a hitter with their first pick.
The final player to get cut this week is Donovan Tate. It’s just too big of a risk for the Pirates to draft him. He doesn’t seem committed to baseball, which means he could easily pass up a fair offer to go and play baseball and football at UNC with no regrets.
Round Two Results
The following players will advance to the third round (next week):
Next week I will cut the list down to the final three players. The following week I will rank those players in order of preference. I will also include a poll in next week’s post for you to vote on which of the final three players you would want. I’ll incorporate that in to the final rankings.
Also, if you haven’t already, set a reminder for the MLB Draft Live Blog (upper right side of the blog), which will start at 5:30 PM EST on Tuesday, June 9th.