I get asked this question a lot: where are the high school arms from the 2009 draft?
The simple answer is that they’re in Extended Spring Training, with the exception of Colton Cain, who has been injured with a back issue, although Cain would have also been in Extended Spring Training.
Chances are the Pirates will take the same approach with these players as they took with Quinton Miller in 2009. Miller was drafted in the 20th round of the 2008 draft, and signed for $900 K, breaking a commitment to North Carolina University. Miller pitched two games in State College at the start of the New York-Penn League season, then moved to West Virginia the rest of the year. He was slated to play in West Virginia all year this season, but has missed time with an injury.
The 2010 State College season starts on June 18th, about a week after the 2010 draft. I’m guessing that we’ll see the 2009 prep arms in the State College rotation, with a lot of them ending up in West Virginia by the end of the year. Here are some player by player specifics, with inning totals, and some info I’ve heard on each player:
Brooks Pounders, 2nd Round, 53rd Overall: Pounders pitched in the GCL last year, going 23.2 innings, with a 3.04 ERA, a 7.6 K/9, and a 4.2 BB/9. Pounders pitched 88 total innings in 2009.
Zack Dodson, 4th Round, 115th Overall: Dodson signed late last year and only pitched in one inning in the GCL. I’ve heard that he will be starting off in State College this year. Dodson pitched a total of 65.1 innings in 2009.
Zach Von Rosenberg, 6th Round, 175th Overall: ZVR only pitched one inning, after signing late in 2009. Von Rosenberg pitched 93 innings in prep ball last year, giving him 94 total innings. I’ve heard he’ll be with State College in June, and my guess is that he’s the best bet to follow the Quinton Miller path, considering the $1.2 M bonus he received.
Trent Stevenson, 7th Round, 205th Overall: Stevenson pitched 15 innings in the GCL last year, with a 1.20 ERA, a 4.8 K/9, and no walks allowed. He pitched 48.1 innings in prep ball, giving him 63.1 total innings in 2009.
Colton Cain, 8th Round, 235th Overall: Cain didn’t pitch in the pros in 2009, and pitched 58 innings in prep ball. Cain’s back injury will probably hold him back behind the rest of this group. He was scheduled to begin throwing simulated games around this point, which means he should be returning to action next month. It will probably take some time for him to get stretched out as a starter, so don’t expect two appearances in State College, followed by a quick promotion to West Virginia.
Quinton Miller only pitched 63.1 innings in his first pro season in 2009. A lot of the players above pitched more than that in 2009, between prep ball and the Gulf Coast League. You’re probably wondering how they can get stretched out that way, without exceeding their previous year’s innings total. What we don’t hear about are the innings they pitch in Extended Spring Training. Those innings can be very valuable, not only because they help stretch a pitcher out, but because of the knowledge that can be taught from the relaxed nature of Extended Spring Training.
Overall, none of these players are expected to arrive in Pittsburgh in the next three to four years. The fastest track seems to be splitting 2011 between low-A and high-A, then 2012 between AA and AAA, followed by AAA and the majors in 2013. That’s a very optimistic route, and one that is also very rare for prep pitchers (such an approach would put Zach Von Rosenberg in the majors at the age of 22). That said, it will be fun to finally see them in action next month, just so we can get a glimpse of the five players who cost the Pirates $3,945,000 in the 2009 draft.
And if you want to see some of them in action before next month, check out these video recaps I did from Spring Training: