Tomorrow’s game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds, two teams with seemingly nothing to play for, will actually have some meaning. The Pirates are three percentage points behind the Baltimore Orioles as the second worst team in the majors. The Washington Nationals have clinched the worst record in the majors, and the number one pick in the 2009 draft. That means a loss by the Pirates tomorrow, or a win by the Orioles, will give the Pirates the number two pick in the 2010 draft.
The unanimous top prospect in the 2010 draft is Bryce Harper, considered the “LeBron James” of baseball. Harper is only 16 years old, and got his GED in order to enter junior college and enter the draft in 2010. Harper has been compared to high school stars like Alex Rodriguez, Justin Upton, and Ken Griffey Jr, which could potentially give the Nationals the best pitching prospect and the best hitting prospect to enter the draft in recent years.
The chances of the Pirates landing Harper are slim, although that doesn’t make the number two pick any less valuable. Right now there are no names stepping up at the top of the draft class, behind Harper, although there is plenty of time for a big name to emerge. Dustin Ackley was considered the fourth best prospect in the college ranks this past February, at the start of the NCAA season. By the time the draft rolled around, Ackley was the consensus number two pick behind Strasburg.
It is too early to tell who the number two pick will be, although here are a few guys to keep an eye on:
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU
Ranaudo is the second best college prospect, according to Baseball America’s recent rankings. Ranaudo had a 3.04 ERA and a 159:50 K/BB ratio in 124.1 innings pitched with LSU last year. Ranaudo is 6′ 7″, 231 pounds, and touches 96 MPH with his fastball, usually working in the low to mid 90s.
Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton
Colon was injured in July, playing for the United States Collegiate National Team, breaking two bones in his leg. The breaks were clean, and Colon should make a full recovery. Colon hit for a .357/.438/.529 line in 255 at-bats last year, with eight homers, 15 stolen bases, and a 24:24 K/BB ratio. He’s got some pop in his bat, hitting five homers for the US Collegiate National Team before his injury. If he recovers fully, he could excel to the top of the rankings.
Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Mississippi
The Pirates selected Nathan Baker and Phillip Irwin from Ole Miss last year, and could take the number one starter from Mississippi this year in Pomeranz. Pomeranz had a 3.40 ERA last year, with a 124:37 K/BB ratio in 95.1 innings pitched. Pomeranz was excellent in the NCAA tournament, and carried that success over to the US Collegiate National Team, with a 4-1 record, and a 1.75 ERA with a 48:9 K/BB ratio in 26 innings pitched. Pomeranz throws in the low to mid 90s, and sets that fastball up with a mid 70’s twelve to six o’clock curve ball. Pomeranz is 6′ 5″, 235 lbs.
Zack Cox, 3B, Arkansas
Cox is a draft eligible sophomore, after turning down the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 20th round pick in the 2008 draft. Cox hit for a .266/.345/.558 line in 199 at-bats as a freshman, with 13 homers, and a 65:20 K/BB ratio. Cox has good defense at third, and showed some good power potential in his first year. I know the Pirates have Pedro Alvarez, but this management group doesn’t seem to settle for just one prospect at a position.
The Pirates are in position to get a prime prospect regardless of what happens tomorrow. However, picking at number two provides several great advantages. The Pirates get their choice of the next best prospect. This year that was Dustin Ackley, with Donovan Tate going third, despite there being no clear consensus on anyone beyond Strasburg and Ackley. Plus, if the Nationals do pass on Harper, the Pirates have first dibs.