In the last few weeks I have been weeding through the draft prospects for the 2009 draft, cutting a list of 15 players down to three possibilities for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ number four pick (the list doesn’t include Stephen Strasburg, who is number one for obvious reasons). The third finalist I will detail is Jacob Turner.
Who He Is: Turner is the top high school pitching prospect, according to Baseball America. He’s 6’5″ and 205 pounds, and throws a fastball that clocks between 92-94 MPH, topping out at 98. He also has a nice big breaking curveball and a solid change up, potentially giving him three plus pitches. Turner pitches for Westminster Christian, where he is taught by former major leaguers Andy Benes, Mike Matheny, and Todd Worrell. Turner has posted an impressive 0.40 ERA in prep ball this year, with an outstanding 105:8 K/BB ratio in 52 innings. You read that correctly. Two strikeouts per inning, and only eight walks in 52 innings pitched. That’s total domination.
Why the Pirates Should Take Him: Turner is a high upside arm, who could potentially serve as the ace of the Pirates. He was ranked with the second best fastball of all high schoolers in the 2009 draft, and the second closest to the majors of all high schoolers in this year’s draft. He’s the only high school player on both lists by Baseball America. That’s the perfect solution for the Pirates. They could draft a high upside arm with a strong fastball, and they wouldn’t have to wait as long as it takes most high schoolers to go through the system.
The Only Drawback: Turner is a Scott Boras client, and Boras has been talking about how Turner will require a $7 M contract, similar to the deals that Josh Beckett and Rick Porcello received when they were top high school arms represented by Boras. Turner is committed to UNC, which means he can use that as leverage for any team who drafts him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he sticks to his demands, as Turner could probably be a David Price type draft pick after two years in college.
Potential Cost: The $7 M asking price isn’t all through a signing bonus. Rick Porcello received a $7.285 M major league contract. $3.58 M came through a signing bonus, with the other $3.705 M being spread over four years, with two option years. The total contract broke down like this:
Bonus: $3.58 M
2007: $0.38 M
2008: $1.1 M
2009: $1.2 M
2010: $1.025 M
2011: $1.536 M club option
2012: $1.344 M club option
The total deal would be worth $10.165 M, and considering Porcello was brought up to the majors in 2009, the contract comes at a considerable value to the Tigers, especially when you consider the option years will probably cover two of Porcello’s four arbitration years (assuming he reaches Super Two status).
The Bottom Line: Just because Scott Boras compares draft prospects to other successful players doesn’t mean it’s true. However, in the case of Turner, I agree that Turner could follow a similar path as guys like Porcello and Beckett. He’s got a great fastball, potentially has two solid complementary pitches, great size, and a quick path to the majors.
There’s the issue of the cost to sign him, but if he signs a deal similar to Porcello’s (and Beckett’s was also similar), the cost might be less than Aaron Crow and Dustin Ackley. That’s mostly because only a small amount of the $7 M Turner would require would come through a bonus. The rest would be spread out over a few seasons.
If Turner follows the same path as Beckett and Porcello, he’d be in the majors by the 2011 season, which is right when the rest of our young prospects would be due to arrive. Bottom line: Turner would easily be the top pitching prospect for the Pirates, with a strong shot of being our own version of Rick Porcello.
Next up: My draft preview will go up Monday morning. The preview will include how I rank Dustin Ackley, Aaron Crow, and Jacob Turner, as well as some potential picks for our two second round selections. Don’t forget to vote on who you would pick if Ackley and Stephen Strasburg were off the board.