It suddenly occured to me just the other day that March is already here, and I haven't even started on my draft previews yet. Unfotunately, that means I'm way, way behind schedule; I began the 2008 series in late January and last year I got started barely into the new year. (Of course, that was also partially because the biggest signing to speak of at the time was Royce Ring, but that's really beside the point.)
So without further ado, I'm just going to jump right in to the previews, beginning with one of the most popular demographics for the Cardinals in years past: right-handed college pitchers.
The 2010 draft is going to be very, very heavy on pitching. There just aren't that many positional prospects, aside from Bryce Harper, who are going to find their way to the tops of teams' draft boards. Now, that's not to say there aren't any, and by the time the Cardinals pick at 25 what is left on the board is really anybody's guess, of course. But for the most part, if you're looking for the first-round guys in 2010, you'd better start with the pitchers.
The Cards' record of drafting pitchers in the first round has been less than impressive of late. Last year's first-round pick, Shelby Miller, has worlds of talent and is still full of promise, but it's far too soon to judge what he's going to be. Before him, the last time the Cardinals used a first-round pick on a pitcher was in 2006, when they chose Adam Ottavino out of Northeastern University. Ottavino's struggles are well know to most of us by now, as he has been unable to find consistent control throughout his pro career. Chris Perez did come in the supplemental round that year, and he moved through the season quickly.
In 2005 the Cards picked up two pitchers in the supplemental round, Mark McCormick and Tyler Herron. Both have since been released, with McCormick falling prey to injuries and Herron to a rumoured substance abuse problem. The year before that was the Chris Lambert Fiasco, in which the Cardinals selected Chris Lambert, who became three months of Mike Maroth, with Philip Hughes, Yovani Gallardo, and Huston Street still on the board. 'Nuff said.
So, you know. Not so good. Anyway...
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Louisiana State University
6'7", 227 lbs
DOB: 9th September, 1989
So, what's so great about this guy?
Anthony Ranaudo is a monster, plain and simple. He's a huge, beastly pitching machine, with a low- to mid-90s fastball he forces down in the zone from his perch high above the world. His curveball rates anywhere from an average to plus pitch as well, giving him two powerful weapons with which to overwhelm hitters.
His sheer size on the mound is one of his best assets, as he cuts an intimidating figure at 6'7", and he uses his height to produce a good downward plane on the ball. He reminds me a bit of Tommy Hanson of the Braves in that regard, in that neither throw a true sinker, but both are able to throw on a steep angle which helps them keep the ball consistently low in the zone.
While Ranaudo relies heavily on his fastball to generate strikes, he's also capable of getting swings and misses with a hard curveball in the upper 70s that has excellent movement. Right now, though, the curveball is a less effective weapon than it could be because he struggles to throw it for strikes.
While the stuff is definitely there for Ranaudo to perform at the professional level, there are plenty of questions as well. He has no third pitch to speak of at this time, and has tried out both a changeup and slider with little success. His control is solid, but he has trouble commanding his pitches consistently, relying instead on pure stuff to get his outs. His fastball is fairly straight. Even more worrisome, his velocity was inconsistent late in the season last year, often dipping into the 88-91 range. He was also held out of his first start this season with discomfort in his trowing arm this season.
If Ranaudo is healthy, he's almost guaranteed to be gone long before the Cardinals pick. On stuff and body alone, he's likely a top 5 sort of pick. The only wild card is his representation, as he is a Scott Boras client. Personally, I think he's a wee bit overrated, much in the mold of Andrew Brackman of a couple years ago. Then again, there's a reason I'm not making the big bucks to select my franchise's future, so take my opinion with whatever condiments you like.
Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech
6'6", 230 lbs
DOB: 23rd June, 1989
So, what's so special about this guy?
Okay, I'm going to level with you: Deck McGuire's scouting report is going to sound a fair amount like Anthony Ranaudo's, and that's no accident. They're both huge, physical pitchers with that mythical low- to mid-90s fastball. So let's just sort of skip that bit, shall we?
What is different, though, is the offspeed offerings for each pitcher. Rather than one plus breaking pitch like Ranaudo, McGuire features three fairly well developed offspeed pitches, though none of them really rate as putaway pitches. A curve, slider, and changeup are all usable pitches for McGuire, with his slider being considered the best of the three. He's obviously a very mature pitcher with a deep repertoire, and has the stuff to make him more than just an inning-eating mid-rotation guy.
In 2009, McGuire struck out 118 hitters in 101 innings, showing he has the ability to generate plenty of empty swings. His health record is clean so far as I can tell.
To me, McGuire is the better choice between he and Ranaudo, based on health alone. The thought process for picking Ranaudo higher is much the same as the old adage about picking the runner with terrible form: there's more room for improvement. However, I would take McGuire's cleaner health record and wider variety of offerings over Ranaudo's slightly bigger fastball and single plus complement. To each their own, though.
Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State University
6'2", 195 lbs
DOB: 1st November, 1988
So, what's so great about this guy?
Where both of the previous pitchers have been big, physical pitchers with hard-but-straight fastballs in the Jeff Niemann mold, Wimmers is a different sort of pitcher. He still throws hard enough, with a fastball that generally clocks in around 89-93 mph, but it's the movement on Wimmer's heater which attracts the attention. He throws from a lower arm angle, basically a true 3/4, and gets excellent run and sink on his fastball as a result. That movement is both a blessing and a curse; while Wimmers is certainly tough to hit (6.7 H/9, 11.7 K/9 in 2009), he also occasionally struggles to throw strikes consistently, walking 7 hitters per nine innings in 2008 and nearly 5 per nine in 2009.
As good as Wimmers' fastball can be, his best pitch is an 11-5 curveball with hard break that he can throw in or out of the strike zone. It's probably the best curve in the draft this year, and one of the best pitches period. Unlike the power curve of Ranaudo, Wimmers does a solid job in general of locating the pitch where he wants to most of the time.
Wimmers also throws a changeup that shows good tumbling action, but he doesn't command the pitch all that well as of yet. There's plenty of potential, though, for a third plus pitch if he can get the change over with more consistency.
The only real question about Wimmers relates to his mechanics. He has a bit of a funky delivery, with a high leg kick and a lower arm angle, that some scouts aren't too keen on. Personally, I like his delivery, but he does have a tendency to let his release point wander according to most reports. (I can't personally vouch for that, as I haven't seen him pitch nearly enough to make such a judgement.) If he can iron out his inconsistencies and improve his control, the sky is the limit for Wimmers. He has the stuff to pitch at the front end of a rotation, with a fastball that generates plenty of weak contact and a true putaway pitch in his curveball.
Of the three pitchers here, I like Wimmers the best. Ranaudo's health scares me and McGuire just doesn't wow me. Wimmers, on the other hand, I just get the feeling watching him he could be special down the road. Unfortunately for the Cardinals and us, the chances of any of these pitchers being available at #25 just aren't all that great. Still, you never know.
The Baron's Playlist for the 3rd of March, 2010
"40 Day Dream" - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
"You Are What You Love" - Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
"Questions and Answers" - Apples in Stereo
"The Photos On My Wall" - Good Shoes (try to find the version from the single of the same name, featuring the greatest Robert Smith impression ever)
"Cherry Tulips" - Headlights
"The Stars Look Familiar" - I Am Kloot
"Inevitable Thieves" - Scissors for Lefty