The State College Spikes begin their season tonight. Below is a look at the pitchers who will start the year on the 2011 Spikes’ roster. Also, be sure to check out our preview of the position players.
Over-Slot Prep Arms
The top prospect at the level will be Stetson Allie, the 2010 second round pick who signed for $2.25 M. Allie will be starting off in State College, rather than joining 2010 first round pick Jameson Taillon in West Virginia, due to some control issues. I saw those control issues in Spring Training this year, and they are very apparent in this video recap. The control issues are to be expected, as Allie is fairly new to pitching, and is more of a thrower at this point. He might not be at State College for long, depending on his performance in this area. He could take the Quinton Miller path of making a few appearances at the level, before quickly moving up to West Virginia.
2010 4th round pick Nick Kingham will start the season off tonight. Kingham received $480 K last year, which was about $225 K over slot. He only pitched three innings in the GCL, but didn’t allow a run, allowed only three hits, and struck out two. He was the number 21 prospect in the system, according to our pre-season rankings, mostly because of his 90-93 MPH fastball with good life. He also has a solid-average changeup, which grades as his second best pitch. He has the frame and ability to develop in to a 200 inning, middle of the rotation starter one day.
Ryan Hafner was drafted in the 17th round in 2010, and was signed for $450,000. He throws in the 87-90 MPH range with little effort. He’s got a big 6′ 6″, 205 pound frame, which combined with his low effort delivery, makes him a strong candidate to add velocity going forward. He will join Allie and Kingham in the rotation to start the year.
JuCo and International Arms
One of the most interesting arms at the level is Joely Rodriguez. The Dominican Republic left hander throws in the 88-92 MPH range, touching 94, and has a lot of life on his fastball. I saw Rodriguez in State College last year, and was very impressed with his stuff. He’s got some control issues, due to the movement on his pitches, and is more of a one pitch guy at this point, although he’s a guy to watch going forward. He will start the season in the State College rotation.
Vincent Payne was taken in the 12th round out of the JuCo ranks last year, and put up strong numbers in the GCL rotation, with a 2.43 ERA in 37 innings, along with a 21:9 K/BB ratio. He’s already pitched two shutout innings in West Virginia this year, with a walk and a strikeout. He won’t start the year in the rotation, although I’d expect him to get a lot of innings out of the bullpen as a piggyback option.
Bryce Weidman is another projectable arm, taken in the 14th round of the 2010 draft. He’s 6′ 4″, 210 pounds, and came from the JuCo ranks. He touches the low-90s with his fastball, and improved his breaking ball in 2010, allowing him to go from being undrafted in 2009 to a 14th round pick in 2010.
Kevin Kleis is a big pitcher taken out of the JuCo ranks in the 27th round last year. He’s 6′ 8″, 225 pounds. In the limited time I’ve seen him he’s been wild, although that’s to be expected, as he’s fairly new to pitching, throwing only 26.1 innings in high school and JuCo before being drafted in 2010. He’s more of a project at this point.
Cliff Archibald was also taken out of the JuCo ranks as a 36th round pick in 2010. He had success out of the bullpen in the GCL last year, but struggled after being moved to the rotation. He throws in the high-80s, and doesn’t have a lot of projectability with his frame, making him more of a bullpen guy going forward.
Three international prospects who will be making the jump from the GCL this year are Fraylin Campos, Emmanuel De Leon, and Joan Montero. Campos has a small frame, and is more of an organizational arm, with an average fastball. De Leon has had a lot of control issues, but also puts up strong strikeout numbers. Montero pitched in relief in the GCL, which is where I’d expect him to pitch in State College. All three are more organizational guys, although there’s a chance De Leon could surprise.
Mitchell Fienemann will rejoin the State College Spikes this season. The Australian pitcher worked mostly out of the bullpen in 2010, which is where he should remain this year. He’s got a projectable frame, at 6′ 4″, 186 pounds, although every time I’ve seen him he’s been working in the mid-80s.
2011 30th round pick Matt Benedict will join the team, after being drafted as a college senior out of Western Carolina University. The 6′ 5″, 220 pound right hander put up a 4.01 ERA in 85.1 innings this year, with a 70:34 K/BB ratio. He will start the year in the Spikes’ rotation.
Justin Ennis, the left hander taken out of LSU-Shreveport in the 33rd round last year, will be returning to the level after putting up a 5.53 ERA in 27.2 innings last year. It’s likely that he’ll also be going to West Virginia when they need a spare arm.
Opening Day Projection
The opening day rotation:
SP1 - Nick Kingham
SP2 - Ryan Hafner
SP3 - Matt Benedict
SP4 - Stetson Allie
SP5 - Joely Rodriguez
Piggyback candidates/Candidates for long relief roles: Vincent Payne, Bryce Weidman, Kevin Kleis, Cliff Archibald
2011 Un-Signed Draft Picks Who Could Appear on the Roster if Signed: Josh Poytress (LHP, 18th round), Michael Jefferson (LHP, 22nd round), Josh Martin (RHP, 25th round)